Hintzen Influence Leaves Phoenix Heartbroken

Perth Glory 3-2 Wellington Phoenix

By Ben Gilby (31/1/22)

Exclusive Photos from: Kris Goman at Wanderers Football Park

Above: All eyes on the ball as Perth Glory launch a second-half attack. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Perth Glory showed their character in adversity once more to come from behind with two goals in the last 10 minutes to defeat winless Wellington Phoenix in a hugely entertaining encounter in Blacktown, New South Wales.

This is the third time during the season that Alex Epakis’ team has scored goals in the final stages of the game and are now in the top four and on course for Finals football after failing to win a game last year.

The result is rough on Wellington who produced an excellent performance, particularly in the first half, where their youngsters showed real ability, energy. and belief.

Perth went into the game with an unchanged starting line-up, there were welcome returns on the bench for Demi Koulizakis and Cyera Hintzen after injuries. Wellington’s squad showed several changes after head coach Gemma Lewis dropped Te Reremoana Walker and Jordan Jasnos completely and Isabel Gomez to the bench for disciplinary reasons.

Above: Alyssa Whinham of Wellington Phoenix against Perth Glory yesterday. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Alyssa Whinham was the best of the Phoenix crop for much of the game. She was busy and full of pace. Her duels with Glory defender Kim Carroll, her senior by 16 years, provided an entertaining subplot.

It was Perth who came closest in the initial arm-wrestle. With 13 minutes on the clock, Kate Taylor’s attempted clearance went straight to Deborah-Ann de la Harpe, who curled in a cross to Hana Lowry. The teenager’s header on the run landed onto the roof of the net.

Immediately afterward, the Western Australians hit the front. Grace Wisnewski’s pass through the midfield was aimed at Zoe McMeeken, but instead found Glory’s Abbey Green. After a pass inside, Green was played in and advanced along the left to play a ball in for Sofia Sakalis who got a shot away which deflected into the net off of Nix defender Taylor.

Phoenix weathered a short-term Perth storm after the goal and, to their credit replied within six minutes. McMeeken played a ball inside from the right which eventually found its way to Whinham. The 18-year-old played a glorious angled pass between two Glory defenders for Grace Jale to finish. It was the first time Wellington have scored a goal after going behind this season.

In-form Deborah-Ann de la Harpe looked to add to her free-kick success of last week with 20 minutes of the half remaining. The set-piece was awarded after Taylor shoved Sakalis in the back despite the Perth attacker facing away from goal with no imminent danger on. The young Wellington defender was not punished as the resulting free-kick was comfortably held by Lily Alfeld.

Phoenix was buoyed by their equalizer, winning several corners and keeping Morgan Aquino busy as they put together one of their most consistent attacking periods of the campaign.

From one such attack, Wisnewski ran through the middle to find Chloe Knott on the left, just outside the box. The ball in towards Pritchard was tempting, but Aquino gathered.

However, the danger had not passed for Perth as Phoenix was presented with a catalogue of errors.

Aquino threw the ball ahead of herself just outside the box to launch a clearance, but the throw was slightly too far which allowed Knott in to challenge. The Perth goalkeeper’s attempted rushed clearance deflected off of Knott and ran to the left of goal where the Phoenix forward slid a shot towards the far post which, as Aquino fell, rolled over the line.

Above: Chloe Knott in the process of scoring Wellington Phoenix’s second goal of the game. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus

Wellington was full of energy and belief as the half neared its climax. The desire was clear for all to see. If Perth could not counter that in the second half, then Phoenix’s first-ever victory was there for the taking.

The crucial difference in Perth’s performance in comparison to their win over Western Sydney was a less aggressive intensity, and an inability to use the wide areas of the pitch on both flanks to mount attacks.

Glory head coach Alex Epakis responded by replacing Sofia Sakalis for Gemma Craine for the second half. The Derbyshire-born substitute had shown signs of developing a strong understanding with Lisa De Vanna in the early stages of the season before the veteran former Matilda suffered an injury.

Craine’s worth was emphasized within minutes of coming on. de la Harpe muscled Taylor off the ball to put a cross in from the right for the newly arrived attacker to put a shot just wide of the near post.

Phoenix were using a high block in a bid to keep Glory at arms length at the start of the second half. Just before the hour mark, USA-born Hintzen made her return from injury as Epakis looked for another weapon to counter the Phoenix defensive structure. de la Harpe moved back to her previous position in the back four with Green withdrawn.

A frustrating period for Perth got worse with 20 minutes to go. Craine looked to get a shot away and fell awkwardly onto her wrist. The English attacker was in real pain and was forced to leave the pitch. After suffering a season-ending injury in Round Two last season, this was devastating for her.

Koulizakis was introduced for her first start for Perth after recovering from a knee injury. In adversity, once more the Glory showed their fight. Hitherto struggling to create chances in the second half, with 10 minutes to go they began to turn the screw.

Lowry curled a free kick in from the far right which Alfeld superbly tipped onto the bar before the ball fell into the path of Koulizakis who fired over from close range.

Above: Mie Leth Jans, left of shot turns the ball across the area for Cyera Hintzen to draw Perth level. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Within moments, sub-Sarah Cain gained possession 25 yards out on the right and squared a ball for Liz Anton. The Kiwi put a high ball into the box first-time which bounced before being turned back in from the left by Jans to an unmarked Hintzen to nod home her second goal in three games this season.

Phoenix responded with a rare chance of their own in the second 45 as Talitha Kramer’s ball in from the left was not dealt with and Gomez fired narrowly over the bar.

Hintzen’s quality was apparent in the final five minutes as she received the ball in the box with her back to goal, beat Mackenzie Barry, and fired just over the top.

Having scored the equalizer, Hintzen turned provider for Perth’s winner. Saskia Vosper fouled Koulizakis on the far left, parallel with the 18-yard box. de la Harpe’s free-kick curled into the back post where it was touched back into the mix by the American for Jans to fire home.

Above: Mie Leth Jans fires home Perth Glory’s late winner. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

Phoenix had one last chance to get a point. Knott squared a ball for Wisnewski, positioned centrally in the box in stoppage time, but there was no power in the shot and Aquino gathered comfortably.

Perth Glory Alex Epakis was pleased to get the win, but not happy with his team’s efforts in the first half.

“I’m really happy that we found a way to win that game, that’s the sign of a healthy team – not playing well but still getting a win – and in the context of the season and getting to where we want to be, it was a result we needed.

“We were really flat in the first half and it was a bit disappointing. We said what we had to say at half-time. We cleared the air and the second half showed a lot more energy.”

The Perth head coach went into more detail about where he felt things had gone wrong in the opening 45: “We really highlighted all week that they (Phoenix) are a team with good energy because they are so young and naïve. We knew we had to match that energy and in the first-half we didn’t. We created a lot of turnovers which gave them chances and they took them.

“The second half was for the team to respond like a top-four team, because that’s what we want to be, a top-four team.”

The response also came in the impact of Perth’s substitutes, and Epakis emphasized their influence. “If it wasn’t for their energy and desire, I don’t know if we would have gotten out of here with the three points. I highlighted that post-match (with the squad).

Above: Demi Koulizakis made her first appearance for Perth Glory, and impressed head coach Alex Epakis. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

“The fact that those players are all coming back from injuries is inspiring and fills me with a lot of hope for what they can offer for the rest of the season.”

One of those substitutes, Gemma Craine picked up what looked to be a broken wrist or hand the Perth head coach was devastated for his player. “It’s not a good injury. I’m thinking about her, we all are. There will be more news in the coming days.”

Summarizing the evening, Epakis said: “I think we need to highlight how impressive the opposition were today. They played with a lot of energy and a lot of spirit and they will make their mark on the competition in due course.

“Today was the first opportunity that we had to see our two nines that we signed (pre-season) Demi (Koulizakis) and Cyera (Hintzen). To have them both on the field at the same time was a telling sign and we hope that partnership can build for the rest of the season.”

Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis was frustrated that her team were not able to get over the line to win their first three points. She reflected: “It did feel like we had the win in us this time around. Again we got into that mindset of defending the win, rather than playing, rather than sticking to our own game. You can’t spend 45 minutes trying to defend a 2-1 lead.”

Above: Despite plenty of effort, as seen in Grace Wisnewski’s excellent sliding tackle on Perth’s Lisa De Vanna, Wellington Phoenix came up short again. Photo: Kris Goman for Impetus.

As Perth continued to build pressure in the final stages, Lewis saw parallels with her team’s game with Brisbane Roar when they previously let a lead slip.

“We’ve seen us do it in the past so it’s frustrating that we’re not learning from that and realizing we can’t let opposition dictate especially when we’re leading and having good positive moments in the game.

“If we stuck to our game plan and focused on us rather than focussed on defending the lead I think we would have taken the sting back out of it and controlled the game a bit more.

“It’s something we’ve going to have to address and something we’re going to have to work out how to move through because we want to be leading in games, we want to be winning and we want that not to be a terrifying aspect for us.”

Kris Goman’s Exclusive Photo Gallery From Wanderers Football Park:

Click on the arrow at the right-hand side of the photo to advance the slide show

Teams: PERTH GLORY (4-3-3): Aquino, Rigby, Anton, K.Carroll, Green, Lawrence, Lowry, Jans, de la Harpe, Sakalis, De Vanna. Substitutes: Newbon (GK), Koulizakis, Cain, Hintzen, Craine.

Scorer: Taylor 14′ (OG), Hintzen 81′, Jans 88′.

WELLINGTON PHOENIX (4-3-3): Alfeld, McMeeken, Barry, Taylor, Kramer, Whinham, Jones, Wisnewski, Pritchard, Knott, Jale. Substitutes: Edwards (GK), Vosper, Gomez, Martin, Lancaster.

Scorers: Jale 20′, Knott 39′

Referee: Rachael Mitchenson.

Attendance: 84.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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