Phoenix rising and Roar after dramatic clash

Brisbane Roar 3-3 Wellington Phoenix

by Ben Carey (29/1/23)

Above: Paige Satchell tries to work her way past the Brisbane Roar defence. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

Wellington Phoenix staged one of the comebacks of the season against Brisbane Roar on a hot Saturday afternoon.

Natalie Lawrence’s team suffered some early setbacks but weathered the storm to close out the match in an exciting 3-3 draw against the home team.

The match started off in a fairly scrappy fashion, with neither team holding too much possession. Brisbane Roar was definitely the side that was more proactive, and both Larissa Crummer and Katrina Gorry found themselves with half chances within the first 10 minutes.

Brisbane wouldn’t need to wait too long until those half chances turned into the real deal. In the 15th minute, Kajsa Lind hit a wonderful long ball to the far-left side of the pitch, which was expertly headed on by Hollie Palmer towards Shea Connors, who had perfectly timed her run past the Wellington defensive line. Connors used her pace to get into the box quickly before she could be shut down, and she went one on one with Brianna Edwards in goal, managing to outfox her to score her first goal for the season.

Just over 10 minutes later, Connors found herself in a dangerous position again. She was running at goal with only the keeper left to beat. Kate Taylor, the Wellington defender was running beside her and took her down, spectacularly, just outside of the penalty box. However, it was deemed that Taylor was the last defender and as such she was shown a red card, much to the dismay of the Wellington fans. The resulting free kick was taken by Gorry, who hit a rocket into the back of the net, edging the Roar ahead 2-0.

After losing Taylor, the Phoenix didn’t hang their heads in defeat. They calmly regrouped and continue playing positive and attacking football. They readjusted their formation, keeping three at the back instead of the usual four, and shuffled the midfield and front line around so that they could stay on the offensive.

In the 33rd minute, an incredible free kick by Michaela Foster, from at least 30 yards out, beat the entire Brisbane defensive line and Hensley Hancuff in goal to halve the deficit. Quite a way to score your first goal in the A-League Women!

In the last 10 minutes before half time, the Roar had a number of chances on goal, all of which involved Indiah-Paige Riley, the most promising of which came just before the stroke of half time. There was a very promising build-up in which Riley ran towards the goal, passed off to Crummer who took a shot, beating the keeper, but it was cleared off the line by Grace Wisnewski. The clearance fell to Connors, but her follow up attempt was headed just wide of the goal by a Wellington defender.

The second half started off relatively uneventful, especially compared to the first half. But the action began to ramp up again after the hour mark. Another long-range, high curling shot from Foster looked destined for the back of the Brisbane net, however Hancuff pulled off a magnificent diving save to deny it. But just over five minutes later, the Brisbane defence was caught sleeping, and they were unable to shut down the attack of Wellington midfielder, Emily Clegg, who scored to level the game up at 2-2.

10 minutes later, Wellington Phoenix scored again. The Brisbane defensive structure was all out of sorts and a defensive header landed straight at the feet of Wisnewski, who slotted it in the back of the net to put Wellington in the lead for the very first time. If anyone thought that the New Zealand side was going to be weakened by the Queensland heat, they were wrong.

In the last 20 minutes of regulation time, the Roar hit the woodwork on three separate occasions, much to the frustration of the local crowd, who felt the win that seemed so inevitable an hour before was being snatched away from beneath them. But in the dying minutes of regular time, Crummer found herself in the box, beat a few Wellington defenders and chipped a ball over Edwards in goal to even the score up 3-3. The crowd went absolutely wild.

But there was still time for one more piece of drama in the dying minutes of stoppage time. Claudia Cicco, of the Wellington Phoenix, played a through ball to Michaela Robertson, who beat the Brisbane defence and scored. However, it was immediately disallowed because she had strayed offside. But a goal had been announced over the loudspeaker and the Wellington supporters were chanting, so it took a little while for the crowd to figure out what had happened.

All in all, it was a very exciting and action-packed match for the spectators. A frustrating draw for Brisbane though, who had the match on a silver platter, but let it slip away.

A solid first half of attacking football, the Roar failed to press enough and convert on their chances in the closing stages of the game. That said, Connors pulled out her best performance of the season so far, scoring the first goal of the match and drawing the foul that lead to the second goal. She also hit a number of good crosses throughout the match that could have easily lead to goals.

Gorry was exceptional in the midfield, pulling the strings, always involved in the build-up of attacks. She scored a goal of her own, and took several more shots on target, two of which hit the woodwork. Norrie, Palmer, and Crummer also put in great shifts for the Roar.

Wellington Phoenix well and truly showed their fighting spirit and their never say die attitude. After going down a player and two goals within the first half hour, they rose up from the metaphorical flames, reborn anew. The impact of Wisnewski was immense.

The newly capped Football Fern was everywhere in the match, she made two blocks in the 18-yard-box, a goal line clearance, and scored the goal that put Wellington ahead. Foster and Barry also performed very well, repelling as many of the Brisbane attacks as possible. Finally, Clegg proved herself to be Wellington’s secret weapon, scoring in back-to-back matches. She is the first player to achieve that for the Phoenix this season.

Speaking after the game, Wellington Phoenix head coach Natalie Lawrence said: “Three points was probably on the cards for us today, but I think if you said to me you’d finish 3-3 when you’re two-nil down after 30 minutes with 10 players I’d probably rip your hand off.”

“The heart, determination and fight of this group was shown. The fact we were two-nil down and then we took it to 3-2. When you look at the character, I can’t be anything but proud of the whole group. Huge, huge credit to the players for how hard they worked in pretty brutal heat.”

As well as the deficit on the scoreboard, the sending off of Taylor, Nix had to contend with exceptionally hot conditions and almost of travelling to Brisbane via Christchurch. “We could use all of these things as an excuse, and we didn’t today,” Lawrence admitted. “That just shows the character of everyone and how we don’t let this stuff get to us. We control what we can and that’s how we play on the field.”

Brisbane Roar will take on Adelaide United at home next weekend and Wellington Phoenix will have two weeks off before facing Western Sydney Wanderers on 12th February.

Teams: BRISBANE ROAR (4-4-2): Hancuff, Kramer, Lind, Rankin, Rasschaert, Norrie, Connors, Gorry, Palmer, Riley, Crummer. Substitutes: Shuttleworth, McQueen, Levin, Kruger, Freier.

Scorers: Connors 15’, Gorry 28’, Crummer 86’.

WELLINGTON PHOENIX (4-2-3-1): Edwards, Foster, Taylor, Barry, Van der Meer, Wisnewski, Knott, Clegg, Hassett, Satchell, Pritchard. Substitutes: Candy, Vosper, Cicco, Gomez, Robertson.

Scorers: Foster 33’, Clegg 66’, Wisnewski 78’.

Referee: Kelly Jones.

Attendance: 753.

Artwork by: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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