Wellington Phoenix 0-0 Western Sydney Wanderers
By Ben Gilby (4/12/21)
Above: Wellington Phoenix (yellow and black) take on Western Sydney Wanderers in their first-ever A-League Women match at Wollongong yesterday. Photo: @ALeagueWomen.
Wellington Phoenix produced a promising performance to take a point from their first-ever A-League Women’s match.
The game, which was delayed due to lightning in the Wollongong area was played in difficult breezy conditions and never really caught fire. This was generally to the credit of the competition debutants who controlled the midfield, particularly in the first half.
It was an arm wrestle of an opening period with Phoenix looking particularly keen to play a high press and focusing attacks along the left-hand side with Grace Jale seeing a lot of early action.
The New Zealanders were comfortable on the ball with the pacey Zoe McMeekan a real threat. On the other side of the ledger, Phoenix were prone to playing passes which could at best be described as hit and hope at times.
Wanderers took 13 minutes to fashion the first opportunity of the game, and it was one that they were desperately unlucky not to take. On the left flank, around 40 yards out, Teigen Allen took possession and squared a pass to Bianca Galic. Her ball through to Sheridan Gallagher, who came across the box, danced past two defenders, and crashed a shot off of the top of the bar with Lily Alfeld beaten. It was so close to a memorable debut goal for the striker.
Further first-half chances were thin on the ground and Wanderers’ Olivia Price and Galic were finding it hard to create for their side in the midfield area.
Ava Pritchard also caught the eye for Wellington across the first forty-five. The 18-year-old forward with some pinpoint passes in her link-up play.
The Kiwis fashioned the only other chance of the opening stanza with five minutes remaining. Chloe Knott won a throw down the left. Jale chested the ball down and played in Knott whose turn and strike was comfortably saved by Sarah Willacy.
Phoenix had the first chance in the second half when McMeeken’s cross was met by a thumping header by Knott which went just wide of the right-hand post.
Wanderers hit back shortly afterward when Halloway came into the box late and hit a sidefooted effort after Gallagher’s cut back, which Alfeld did well to stop at her near post.
With three minutes to go, Halloway had another chance from outside of the box, but her effort was always rising over the bar and that was that.
A proud Phoenix Head coach Gemma Lewis hailed an “amazing” performance from her team when she spoke to the media after the match. “They did exactly what we wanted them to do…, super proud of them, and couldn’t have asked for anything more.
“They’re on a high. We knew there wasn’t any expectations on us going in but the girls want to show what they’re made of. The girls want to show that they’re here to compete. They want to show that they’ve got the calibre to be in this league.
“They had a little something to prove as well and I think you could see that. We got a draw and we got a point but I think they want to push for even more. They want to show people they can really keep improving.”
Lewis was reluctant to single out any players for special praise but had to highlight the performance of the youngest member of her squad, right back Zoe McMeeken.
“Zoe’s 17 and…you can’t look at her CV and expect her to come outperform like she did today like it was nothing. She was the constant workhorse for us and her crosses into the box as well were dangerous. And she was constantly getting forward, even though I was asking her to get back as well, and she did it for the whole game.”
The Wellington Phoenix head coach is well aware that her side will no longer be an unknown for opponents now, which will make things tougher next time out at Newcastle Jets. “The surprise has gone now. I think everyone kind of knows what to expect.”
Wanderers’ midfielder Rosie Galea spoke of her team’s disappointment with the result: “Yeah, it’s not the result we wanted. A lot of things didn’t come off the way we wanted them to.
“Our midfield movement and getting out of tight spaces were things we couldn’t produce today.” When asked if the result felt more like a loss than a draw, Galea was certain. “Yes, definitely, but we’ll have to take it in our stride and move forward for our next game (the derby against Sydney FC in Parramatta).”
Teams: WELLINGTON PHOENIX: Alfeld, Vosper, Taylor, Dale Barry, McMeekan, Jasnos, Gomes, Wisnewski, Pritchard, Knott, Gale. Substitutes: Edwards (GK), Martin, Rue, Walker, Whinham.
WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS: Willacy, Allen, Cooper, Hunt, Matos, Habuda, Price, Galic, Halloway, Copus-Brown, Gallagher. Substitutes: Apostolakis, Collister, Galea, Henry, Whitton (GK).
Referee: Casey Reibelt.
Attendance: 1,309 (Wollongong, New South Wales).
Impetus’ coverage of Australian Women’s Football is supported by The Chicken Salt Co. They are offering every Impetus reader 5% off all orders of Chicken Salt from their website. Go to https://www.chickensalt.co.uk/?mate=impetus and place your order – 5% will automatically be taken off of the cost. The coupon code is impetus.