Phoenix delay Victory party plans

Wellington Phoenix 2-2 Melbourne Victory

By Denise Duffy (1/4/23).

Above: Wellington Phoenix draw level with Melbourne Victory. Photo: Keep Up.

In a thrilling encounter at the Sky Stadium, Wellington Phoenix’s never-say-die attitude allowed them to earn a hard-fought draw with Melbourne Victory, courtesy of a Grace Wiznewski goal eight minutes in to stoppage time at the end of the match.

It was a crucial match for Victory as they aimed to secure a spot in the Finals. Meanwhile, their opponents, the Phoenix, were desperate to avoid the wooden spoon for the second consecutive year. It was a fight to the end with neither team achieving their desired outcome.

From the start, the visitors dominated the game with their attacking pressure. Wellington Phoenix’s Paige Satchell handball at the top of the box set the stage for Alana Murphy to deliver a stunning set-piece goal ripping through a hole in the Phoenix wall leaving goalkeeper Brianna Edwards stranded.

As the game progressed, Victory continued to exert pressure and doubled their lead in the 24th minute, courtesy of a red-hot Melina Ayers, who turned past Marissa Van der Meer and unleashed a ferocious shot that rattled off the top woodwork and into the net.

In the 31st minute, there was a spark of hope for the Phoenix with a breakaway moment involving Satchell passing forward to a wide-open Milly Clegg. Unfortunately, Clegg’s final touch got away from her and was smothered by Victory’s keeper Casey Dumont. 

Towards the end of the first half, the Phoenix began to put on some much-needed offensive pressure against the Victory. Despite their efforts, and a Wisnewski long-range attempt, they were unable to find the back of the net and convert their opportunities into goals.

As the second half got underway, the physical intensity of the match increased, with both Victory and the Phoenix vying for the advantage. The game opened up, providing more space for both teams to work with and creating opportunities for them to add to their tally.

For the visitors, every goal would be crucial in improving their overall goal differential in comparison to Canberra United and increasing their chances of making it to the Finals. The Phoenix, on the other hand, were fighting to avoid the wooden spoon for the second consecutive year.

In the 66th minute, Wellington Phoenix substitute Emma Main took a shot from distance, testing Victory keeper Casey Dumont. Dumont secured the ball and stepped back into her goal, and although there was some controversy over whether the ball had crossed the line, the officials ultimately ruled that it hadn’t.

In the 74th minute, an errant back pass from Kayla Morrison caused Dumont to attempt to play the ball with her feet. It was challenged and picked up by Ava Pritchard, who took a long-range shot at an open goal, and the Nix were on the board.

Following an injury break for Casey Dumont, Jeff Hopkins’ side stepped up their attack, and Phoenix keeper Brianna Edwards had to make several crucial saves to keep her team in the game. In the 96th minute, she made a stunning save to deny Melina Ayers’ powerful shot from the top of the 18-yard box.

In the final dramatic sequence from the back, starting with keeper Edwards, to Foster, who found Taylor, Main then lofted a header towards the Victory’s goal, which tempted Dumont to come off her line past the penalty area. The ball bounced on the ground, and Wisnewski high-kicked it into an open goal in the 98th minute, securing a point for the Phoenix.

Following the match, head coach Natalie Lawrence spoke of her team’s progress, citing the growth from last season and the consistent effort put forth throughout the current campaign. Lawrence acknowledged the tendency for the team to fall just short in tight games but praised their perseverance and determination to fight until the very end. It was this fighting spirit that ultimately paid dividends in securing the crucial goal and salvaging a draw in the match.

The Nix boss said: “We also look at the progression that this team has made, not only from last year but throughout the season. And that kind of performance, I spoke about it in our huddle. So many times this season, we lose 2-1, we lose by one goal, even though we work, and we never give up, and we keep going until the end. And today we didn’t. Today, we found that goal.”

Meanwhile, Melbourne Victory’s head coach Jeff Hopkins was understandably frustrated by the outcome.

“Just really, really disappointed…the (way the) game went, (we) gave away two ridiculously poor goals. Just totally unlike what we normally do. And maybe the pressure kinda got to us a little bit in the second half. I guess everyone’s really upset in the moment. Myself included, but that said, we’ve still got a fighting chance.”

Teams: WELLINGTON PHOENIX (4-3-3): Edwards, Foster, Taylor, Van der Meer, Barry, Knott(c), Hassett, Wisnewski, Rolston, Satchell, Clegg,. Substitutes: Candy, Pritchard, Main, Cicco, Robertson.

Scorer:  Pritchard 74’. Wisnewsku 90+8’.

MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-2-3-1): Dumont, Morrison, Bunge, Nash, Tathem, Jackson, Eliadis, Murphy, Goad, Zimmerman, Ayres. Substitutes: Templeman, Privitelli, Markovski, Briedis, Curtis.

Scorer: Murphy 3’, Ayers 24’.

Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.

Attendance: TBC.

Artwork: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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