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Phoenix Women win to finish third season

Updated: Apr 3

The Wellington Phoenix Women have finished their 2023-24 A-League Women season in style.

The Phoenix have beaten finals hopefuls Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 in their final round match at Porirua Park.

Emma Main scored both goals to secure the Nix their ninth win of the season and ensure the Sister City Cup remains in Porirua for the off-season.

“It was really good,” Phoenix head coach Paul Temple told media post-match. “Potentially the best 25 minutes of the season in terms of starting a game.

“It was electric, and we didn’t really give them a kick in the first half an hour. In the first half it was really good attacking, really good in possession [and] the second half was really good defensively.

“It was great to see the clean sheet and that defensive doggedness around the box.”

The result means Wellington will finish eighth on the ladder, five points outside the top=six, while Western Sydney now have to wait and see if they make the finals.

Temple handed young goalkeeper Aimee Danieli her A-League debut off the bench and she made a great fingertip save to ensure the Nix secured a clean sheet.

“We’ve got faith in these young kids and I knew if she had to make saves, if she had to come and claim balls she’d be able to do it, because she’s a good goalkeeper.

“She claimed her first cross straight away and made a good save from the free-kick. She kept a clean sheet on debut, which is awesome. I’m glad we were able to do that for her.”

Mackenzie Barry was named Phoenix captain in her 50th A-League match for the club, with Temple making four changes to the XI which started last week’s 1-0 defeat to Canberra United.

Zoe McMeeken, Kate Taylor, Alyssa Whinham and Manaia Elliott came into the side for Hailey Davidson, Tiana Jaber, Daisy Brazendale and Mariana Speckmaier, who were all named amongst the substitutes alongside Danieli.

Isabel Cox should have put the Nix in front in the sixth minute when she pounced on a wayward back pass and was through one-one-one with Western Sydney ‘keeper Sham Khamis. Unfortunately for Cox and Wellington, Khamis won the head-to-head contest.

Cox nearly turned provider moments later when she beat her opposite one-on-one and cut a pass back to Emma Main, who rattled the far post with her first time shot.

The Phoenix were dominating with Main, Macey Fraser and Alyssa Whinham also fizzing shots narrowly wide of the Wanderers’ goal inside the opening quarter of an hour.

The Nix finally got reward for their dominance in the 18th minute when Emma Main headed home an inch-perfect left-wing cross from Manaia Elliott from six yards out. Elliott picked herself off the turf to deliver the cross after being injured in a tackle moments earlier. She required attention immediately after the goal but was able to play on.

Wellington continued to dominate possession for the next 20 or so minutes, but their chances dried up.

Western Sydney’s only decent spell came around the half hour mark when the Phoenix were down a player when Taylor required attention. The Football Fern ultimately had to be replaced by Jaber.

Wanderers’ first shot of the match came in the 41st minute when their top scorer Sophie Harding had a go from the edge of the box, but it was straight at Rylee Foster in the Wellington goal.

The visitors had a great chance soon after when the Nix were unable to clear a right wing cross, but Western Sydney midfielder Danika Matos couldn’t keep her shot on target.

Khamis made a good save to deny Whinham the Phoenix’s second shortly before halftime after the midfielder shot after some neat passing inside the Wanderers’ penalty area.

Former Wellington forward Cushla Rue had the first shot of the second half, but she wasn’t able to trouble Rylee Foster after finding some space at the top of the box.

Soon after Main doubled the Nix’s lead when she slipped in behind the Western Sydney defence and squeezed a shot over Khamis and into the back of the net.

The Wanderers’ ‘keeper was more assured with her hands in the 59th minute to keep out a long-range effort from Hope Breslin and Foster also did well to hold on to an effort from substitute Maliah Morris soon after.

Wellington Phoenix Women
Wellington Phoenix Women players celebrate beating Western Sydney. PHOTO: DAVE LINTOTT PHOTOGRAPHY

Fraser had a speculative effort from distance in the 66th minute that sailed narrowly wide, while Rue fizzed a shot just off target a handful of minutes later.

Rylee Foster made way for Aimee Danieli in the 80th minute, with the Temple clearing his bench by bringing on Daisy Brazendale at the same time.

Danieli was untroubled for the first half a dozen minutes with her defenders blocking a few Western Sydney shots.

In the 87th minute the 19-year-old managed to push a free-kick from Wanderers captain Amy Harrison on to her bar.

Her fingertips ensured the Phoenix secured their fifth clean sheet of the season, with Western Sydney unable to threaten Wellington’s goal in the remaining minutes.

Macey Fraser came close to making it 3-nil in time added on with her shot from outside the box narrowly missing the top left corner.

But two goals was enough for the Nix and Mackenzie Barry lifted the Sister City Cup after the fulltime whistle. There was also a special presentation for Barry in recognition of her becoming the first player to play 50 matches for the club.

Wellington Phoenix Women 2 (Emma Main 18', 55') Western Sydney Wanderers Women 0. HT: 1-0


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