Wellington Phoenix began life as an A-League Women’s side in encouraging fashion as their young outfit battled to a 0-0 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers in the first game of the new season.
- The Phoenix were making their A-League Women debut
- They fielded eight 18-year-olds in their starting line-up
- Wanderers coach Catherine Cannuli was booked during the match
After kick-off was delayed by 15 minutes due to thunderstorms in Wollongong, the Phoenix gave a good account of themselves in an end-to-end encounter.
While the Phoenix — who had eight 18-year-olds in their starting side — failed to score, there were plenty of positives in their first outing against a much-fancied Wanderers team.
Things could have been vastly different when the Wanderers’ Bianca Gallic fed Sheridan Gallagher through the middle of the Phoenix defence in the 12th minute.
The forward turned and bore down on goal but was only able to hit the crossbar from the edge of the box.
That was to be the sole flashpoint in the first half as the Wanderers enjoyed the lion’s share of possession but were unable to turn their dominance into goals.
Their end product was lacking and when the Phoenix opted to press, the Wanderers often squandered possession or were forced to go long.
The Phoenix were well organised and defended smartly in the opening 45 minutes, with Grace Jale the spark for the Gemma Lewis-coached side.
They showed no signs of relenting during their spirited start as Zoe McMeeken’s whipped cross just after the half-time break found Chloe Knott, who was unable to test Wanderers goalkeeper Sarah Langman.
The Wanderers responded with Gallagher setting up Erica Halloway after some smart play at the byline, but Lily Alfeld was on hand to deny the forward.
As the match wore on, the younger Phoenix outfit seemed to tire, with Jale taken off with 30 minutes left to play and McMeeken treated for cramp.
Rosie Galea had a chance in the 85th minute to snatch a winner for the Wanderers but all she could do was fire her effort into the side netting.
Wanderers coach Catherine Cannuli was booked in the dying stages of injury time for leaving her technical area and touching a live ball.
Melbourne City beats Canberra
A Holly McNamara stunner netted Melbourne City a 1-0 victory over Canberra United in the night’s other A-League match.
Cutting in from the left wing on the 80-minute mark, the City forward curled the ball around United goalkeeper Keeley Richards from just inside the penalty area.
Until that point it had looked as if City might be denied a deserved victory after producing a string of chances in a dominant performance.
In a 10-minute second-half blitz, Kiwi international Hannah Wilkinson had demanded three quality saves from Richards, notably a leaping effort to tip a long shot over the bar before another blast from close range again needed to be parried away.
United could have opened their account as Margot Robinne put Grace Maher into space before her left-footed shot failed to stretch City custodian Melissa Barbieri on 73 minutes.
After McNamara’s goal, City looked to have found a second but Richards emerged from a goal-mouth scramble holding the ball.
Late drama was avoided when United substitute Alexia Karrys-Stahl jumped high but could only head the ball to Barbieri.
City coach Rado Vidosic said he began to fear the goal wasn’t coming before McNamara stepped up to the plate.
“You always think like that, but we know that we will have a few goal-scorers this season,” he said.
“Holly, she’s only 18 years old, a great talent — and what a strike. Their goalkeeper made some fantastic saves and she kept them in the game.”