Melbourne City 4-0 Wellington Phoenix
By Ben Gilby (9/1/22)
Above: Melbourne City’s prolific striker Hannah Wilkinson about to put her side 2-0 up over Wellington Phoenix. Photo: Melbourne City.
A spell of two goals in five minutes before half-time ultimately proved to be the difference as Melbourne City saw off Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park.
City were out of the blocks fast with Hannah Wilkinson working hard to test Lily Alfeld. Newly called-up to the Matildas, 18-year-old Holly McNamara earned an early corner when her shot was deflected out for a corner on the left. Rhianna Pollicina’s delivery was dangerous, high into the mix, but Phoenix dealt with the danger.
With the game heading towards the quarter of an hour mark, Phoenix were able to build offensively with Mackenzie Barry and Chloe Knott working hard to try and create opportunities with Alyssa Whinham buzzing around impressively once more and Kate Taylor putting in some fierce challenges.
Phoenix continued to press and when Winonah Heatley gave possession away to Isabel Gomez, a dangerous cross came in towards Knott, but City defender Tori Tunmeth got in ahead to prevent a goal.
Wellington were punished for being unable to turn chances into goals when City went immediately up the pitch and took the lead just before the half-hour mark. McNamara put a ball in towards Wilkinson. Taylor’s attempted headed clearance fell straight to Kaitlyn Torpey who fired a first-time shot into the net.
With City gradually building a head of steam coming into the break, it was important for Phoenix to hold the score at 1-0, but with two minutes of the half remaining, those hopes ended.
Melissa Barbieri’s long goal kick was headed back by Barry, but the teenage defender failed to get anywhere enough power on the ball which allowed Wilkinson to run through and lift the ball over Alfeld into the net for her eighth goal in three games.
Three minutes into stoppage time, City went three-up. McNamara earned a corner after Gomez cleared the danger. Chelsea Blissett’s high set-piece caused chaos in the Wellington six-yard box as Heatley got in at the far post ahead of McMeeken and Ava Pritchard to force the ball home.
To their credit, Wellington started the second half positively but were never quite able to turn possession into shots on goal.
City almost made them pay once more after a loose pass enabled Rebekah Stott to play in McNamara. The teenage striker gave herself a tight angle which enabled Alfeld in the Phoenix goal to push the shot away for a corner.
Stott almost added a fourth with under 25 minutes to go against her fellow countrywomen when she received possession just outside the box, but her shot came back off of the top of the bar.
With the game entering its final 15 minutes, City completed the scoring. Torpey got away from Jordan Jasnos along the right to pull in a high cross. Possession eventually found its way to McNamara on the right of the box who earned a corner.
As the flag-kick came in from Tyla-Jay Vlajnic, Phoenix were unable to clear and City defender Emma Checker was able to twist and fire home a powerful finish at the back post.
Alfeld was called into action to deny McNamara when the pair were one on one with nine minutes to go as City ran out comfortable winners.
Reviewing the game, Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis said: “I think we played more positively today, which sucks to still walk away with a four-nil loss,” Lewis told media post-match.
“I think for the most part we had a bit more about us. We were a bit more relentless out of possession, we were turning over the second ball, we were getting in their face, we were trying to be positive going forward, we were getting our fullbacks joining up, we were trying to get attacking numbers in the box.
“I was happy with how we performed in the first-half, but three-nil down at halftime is so hard to come back from.”
Lewis saw the period on either side of half-time as key to the outcome: “I felt like we had a good first half but then we made that mistake and conceded a soft second goal and then conceded just before we go into halftime from a corner.
“We just have to really work on stopping those soft goals because that really changed the game to be honest.
“I felt like we had really good moments in that first half, where we were pushing them. Obviously, we’re still struggling with that attacking threat, but I felt like we had more attacking options.”
Teams: MELBOURNE CITY (3-4-2-1): Barbieri, Heatley, Checker, Tunmeth, Blissett, Stott, Davidson, Torpey, Pollicina, McNamara, Wilkinson. Substitutes: Acardo, Karic, Majstorovic (GK), Malone, Vlajnic.
Scorers: Torpey 29′, Wilkinson 43′, Heatley 45+3′, Checker 78′.
WELLINGTON PHOENIX: Alfeld, Kramer, Taylor, Barry, McMeeken, Brown, Gomez, Wisnewski, Pritchard, Knott, Whinham. Substitutes: Edwards (GK), Jale, Jasnos, Martin, Walker.
Referee: Caitlin Williams.