Sydney FC overcome defiant Phoenix

Wellington Phoenix 0-1 Sydney FC

By Ben Carey (26/2/23).

Above: Princess Ibini tries to get the ball past Claudia Cicco. Photo: Sydney FC.

Sydney FC overcame a defiant Wellington Phoenix side on Sunday afternoon at Auckland’s North Harbour Stadium. 

Due to the recent international break, neither side had played in two weeks. The first half hour of the match was quite competitive, with a few attacks from both sides, but each attack was successfully shut down by the other team’s defensive line. 

After the clock ticked past 30 minutes, both sides started creating some real opportunities. Wellington Phoenix had a good chance of scoring, with both Grace Wisnewski and Kate Taylor taking shots at Jada Whyman’s goal. Soon after, up the other end, Sydney had a chance to score as well, with Rola Badawiya taking a shot. 

Perhaps the best chance of the half was in the 40th minute, after a great build-up from the hosts, Michaela Foster hit a good ball into Marisa van der Meer who tried to head it into the goal, but drew a great diving save out of Whyman. Five minutes later, Taylor hit a through ball to Michaela Robertson, who tucked it home, only to see her effort immediately ruled out for offside.

Within two minutes of the re-start, Wellington conceded a corner. Mackenzie Hawkesby delivered a good ball in that drew a defensive header that bounced up high. There was a scramble and the Phoenix couldn’t clear the ball, which was headed back into a dangerous spot by Sarah Hunter, and tucked past Brianna Edwards by Rachel Lowe, her first goal of the season.

The rest of the game was competitive, but Sydney definitely had the advantage. There was a flurry of action around the 70 minute mark, but they were all shut down in defence or missed.

Sydney really ramped it up in the final 20 minutes, keeping possession, pinning the Phoenix in their defensive half, and piling the pressure on their back line. Cortnee Vine and Rachel Lowe drew some spectacular saves from Brianna Edwards, who fought to keep her team in the match. But Sydney proved a bit too strong and closed out the match for a win.

Wellington Phoenix put up a hell of a fight, worked really well as a team, and created some good opportunities, but they just lacked the firepower in the frontline to cause Sydney any real problems. Kate Taylor had a great day, playing as a defensive midfielder. Additionally, Barry, Foster, and van der Meer performed exceptionally well in the backline.

“We’ve become a little bit like one-nil specialists,” Lawrence told media post-game. “That one felt almost harder than the one against Western Sydney. There is just something about this Sydney team. They’re so successful, they have some really good players and we wanted to be really, really hard to play against.

“To concede again from a set piece. It’s just those little moments where you lose concentration and good teams punish you. We’ve just got to be more switched on. I thought we’d been starting the second halves particularly well, better than the first halves, and today it was the other way around.

“I thought first-half we were outstanding. I thought we had better chances. I haven’t seen the off-side goal, but everyone said that it was, so I’ll trust this one. But she hit that amazingly. I thought Mickey Robertson had a fabulous game. Last season it was three-nil, five-nil, today 1-nil [and] we really, really competed. We keep going. The season’s not done for us, we keep going right until the end.”

For Sydney, Vine was sensational, bringing her recent Matildas form to Sky Blues. She was fast, played with intent, set up some dangerous opportunities, and took a few shots herself. Tobin was wonderful in the back line, defending well, and taking a few shots at goals also, which kept the Phoenix guessing.

Wellington Phoenix will next play Brisbane Roar at home next Saturday and Sydney FC will take on Western United in a highly anticipated top-of-the-table clash on Sunday.

Teams: WELLINGTON PHOENIX (4-2-3-1): Edwards, Foster, Barry, van der Meer, Cicco, Wisnewski, Knott, Taylor, Clegg, Pritchard, Robertson. Substitutes: Brown, Vosper, Whinham, Satchell, Rolston.

SYDNEY FC (4-3-3): Whyman, Mclean, Fenton, Hunter, Vine, Tobin, Hawkesby, Rule, Ibini, Hollman, Badawiya Substitutes:Offer, Stanic-Floody, Green, Collister, Lowe.

Scorers: Lowe 47’.

Referee: Rachael Mitchenson.

Attendance: 1,182.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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