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Wellington Phoenix forward Ava Pritchard leaps over Western Sydney Wanderers’ Teigen Allen.
First game, first point.
Wellington Phoenix made an impressive start to life in the A-League Women, holding Western Sydney Wanderers to a 0-0 draw in their inaugural game at WIN Stadium in Wollongong on Friday night.
Coach Gemma Lewis promised an aggressive style of play in the team’s first season, and the Phoenix certainly lived up to that, putting their more experienced opposition under all sorts of pressure with their high intensity defence.
Wanderers hit the crossbar through Sheridan Gallagher early on and finished the stronger of the two teams, but the Phoenix had more clear-cut chances, getting five shots on target to Wanderers’ three, and proved to be a tough team to break down.
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They faded towards the end as their legs began to tire, but vice-captain Kate Taylor was satisfied to walk away with a draw after a dogged defensive display.
“We’ll take the nil-all draw,” Taylor told Sky Sport. “We were all buzzing out there after the first half, and we had to really work hard in the first moments of the second half, and after we got through that it was just holding on to the end, and we’ll take it for our first opportunity to play out here at WIN Stadium.”
Grace Wisnewski had three headers on target, while Chloe Knott squandered a great chance to break the deadlock in the second half when she turned the ball over high up the pitch but sprayed her shot wide.
Lewis named an inexperienced starting XI with an average age of only 20 and they lined up in a 4-3-3 formation with striker Grace Jale leading the line flanked by wingers Jordan Jasnos and Ava Pritchard.
Wisnewski, Knott and Isabel Gomez formed a midfield trio with Taylor and Mackenzie Barry starting in the heart of defence in between Saskia Vosper and Zoe McMeeken, who was one of the more impressive performers, causing the Wanderers plenty of problems with her lung-busting runs from right-back.
Captain Lily Alfeld started in goal and aside from the early scare when Gallagher struck the crossbar, she was largely untroubled, making only three saves, including an easy one from a long-range free-kick.
Wellington Phoenix want to make a statement in their A-League Women debut.
The Phoenix were dealt a blow before the game with Kelli Brown ruled out with an ankle injury, depleting their attacking options, while kickoff had to be delayed briefly due to the thunderstorms in the area.
There were massive smiles on the Phoenix players faces as they eventually made their way onto WIN Stadium, and the smiles returned after the game as they claimed a richly deserved first competition point.
“I think we really worked hard,” Taylor said. “All the girls started getting cramp at the end as I’m sure lots of people saw. It just went through the whole team, even the subs that came on, we were all working hard, the people on the bench, even some of the crowd they were cheering, and it took the whole effort to get the draw.”
Wellington Phoenix 0 Western Sydney Wanderers 0