Wellington Phoenix 2-3 Brisbane Roar
By Kris Goman (16/1/22)
Above: Katrina Gorry (centre) celebrates after hitting the penalty which sealed Brisbane’s win. Photo: Brisbane Roar.
It was a stunning day at a stunning stadium right by the Pacific Ocean in Wollongong.
Wellington start off the match quite aggressively and keep the ball in their attacking half initially. They get an early chance as Katrina Gorry is beaten and a ball comes through, into the box for Isabel Gomez.
Roar retaliate with Mariel Hecher bringing the ball into the box but is also unable to do anything meaningful with it.
A Wellington free-kick outside the box goes straight to Georgina Worth.
Fourteen minutes in and Hecher is making another run towards goal when Talitha Kramer pulls her down just inside the box as they both struggle to get to the ball. There’s a yellow card for Kramer and a penalty kick for Hecher. Larissa Crummer steps up to take it. She does a bit of fancy footwork and goes to the right but Lily Alfeld has anticipated it beautifully and gets a hand to it. Katrina Gorry rushes the rebound but it hits Alfeld again.
Norrie gets to that rebound but once again it hits defending players and just won’t go in and ends up rebounding out for a corner. Wellington is jubilant at stopping the penalty and deservedly so. The corner goes to Hecher but her control is lacking and it ends up near the sideline and being cleared.
Brisbane are dominating possession with over 70% but despite this, haven’t got out of their half much in the first fifteen minutes
A miss-hit sends the ball into the Wellington box from the right sideline. Brisbane wasn’t expecting it and Alyssa Whinham seizes the opportunity, taps the ball into space, and aims for the left post with a left-footed shot. It curls around Worth who gets a hand to it but can’t stop its trajectory and Whinham can’t believe her luck as Wellington take the early lead with just their second goal of the season after 20 minutes.
The goal has given the Phoenix a spring to their step, and just four minutes later their second corner produces another goal. Chloe Knott directed it from the left corner to the middle of the goalmouth and Grace Jale used her height to get up unopposed and glance the ball into the goal.
Two minutes later and Knott crosses from the right to Jale in the box. She’s able to shoot once more and goes to the right of the goal, but Annabel Haffenden is able to stick her foot out to deflect it safely. Worth was beaten though and that was another close look at the goal for the Nix. Roar must be wondering what is going on. The resulting corner goes straight out over the goal.
Jamilla Rankin brings the ball down the left and passes to Shea Connors. She’s off on her own into the box but her shot is straight at Alfeld who has no problems catching it.
Roar is now back on the attack and Gorry releases Larissa Crummer. She shoots but it’s wide to the right and she’s offside anyway.
Te Reremoana Walker loses the ball to Crummer just outside the box. Crummer slips the ball to Hecher who knows exactly what to do. She heads for goal and draws Alfeld out before slamming the ball past her to the right post and into the back of the net. Brisbane was showing their experience with that goal and there were no mistakes this time. They get one goal back and we’re at 2-1 with the Nix still in front ten minutes out from halftime.
Leading into half time, the Roar embark on a concerted press. There’s a lot of ball movement around the top of the box and even through the box until Gorry gets a bit of space and goes for the long-range strike that she’s famous for. Alfeld is able to punch it out for a corner but it was on target and a great shot.
Within the first minute of the second half, Gorry plays a ball down the right flank and Clough runs onto it and crosses. It’s badly controlled by Wellington right in front of goal before Crummer is able to find some space and slam it in for the equalizer. We’ve got a whole half left to play and the Nix have relinquished their lead.
Gorry continues to menace with her long-range shots. Out of nowhere, she launches a missile that hits the crossbar and bounces back into play for Hecher to head the rebound just to the left of goal and out.
Towards the end of the match, Brisbane steps up the intensity. There’s pressure through a couple of corners and then Shea Connors finds some space down the left side. She’s able to cross to the feet of Clough who shoots but it’s close range and Alfeld gets it immediately.
Alfeld has made seven saves to Worth’s nil at this stage of the game and while it’s a telling statistic, possession has evened up a lot and Wellington are playing well. They just aren’t getting any more shots on target.
At 86 minutes, there’s a corner for the Roar. Ava Pritchard comes out and clips Jessie Rasschaert who goes down right in front of goal. The referee awards a penalty to Brisbane. Gorry will take this one and goes low and hard to the left. Alfeld goes that way but it goes under her. 87 minutes in and Brisbane finally take the lead. It’s 3-2 with Brisbane in front.
There’s four minutes of extra time added. There are no further chances and, at the whistle, Brisbane is victorious and gets the much-needed three points sending them above the Western Sydney Wanderers on the table and into seventh place.
While Brisbane must be relieved to win their second game, there are still questions to be asked about the lapses in defence that allowed the Nix to get two goals ahead, Brisbane looked the better team but Wellington had their moments of glory and looked well organized with their early press and managed to keep ahead and then level for the bulk of the game.
Wellington can be proud of this match and will rue a couple of unlucky decisions that saw penalties awarded against them. Hopefully, this gives them the confidence to know they can win and we’ll see such a result soon.
Speaking after the game, Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis said: “A couple of the girls are really upset by it, feeling responsible, feeling like they lost the game for the team.
Lewis admitted that she was surprised by how her players reacted to being ahead: “I think at halftime they looked more petrified than when they were 5-0 down at halftime. They’re still learning and they haven’t experienced being up and the expectation to get something out of this game.
“When we went 2-0 up the playing started to get a little bit more tense, it started to get rushed, it started to get hectic. It didn’t feel like we were 2-0 up. It felt like we were down almost.”
Phoenix’s first goal was a beauty from Alyssa Whinham whose reaction was one of sheer disbelief: “It’s probably the most authentic reaction I’ve ever seen from somebody scoring a goal,” Lewis admitted, “I don’t think she could quite believe it herself!”
Teams: BRISBANE ROAR (4-3-3): Worth, Margraf, Rasschaert, Haffenden, Rankin, Kitano, Norrie (c), Gorry, Hecher, Crummer, Connors. Substitutes: Bailey, Stamatopoulos, Tathem, Palmer, Clough.
Scorers: Hecher ’34, Crummer 46′, Gorry (pen) 87′.
WELLINGTON PHOENIX (4-3-3): Alfeld, McMeeken, Walker, Taylor, Kramer, Whinham, Gomez, Wisnewski, Pritchard, Knott, Jale. Substitutes: Edwards (GK), Vosper, Jasnos, Jones, Martin.
Scorers: Whinham 20′, Jale 24′.
Referee: Rebecca Mackie