Temple era off the mark at Wellington as Phoenix see off Wanderers with second-half flurry

Western Sydney Wanderers FC v Wellington Phoenix - Extended Highlights | Liberty A-League 2023-23 | Round 02

Wellington Phoenix are off the mark in the 2023-24 Liberty A-League season, after seeing off Western Sydney Wanderers in style with a 3-0 win at CommBank Stadium.

Venezuelan international Mariana Speckmaier, Macey Fraser and Manaia Elliott all fired home their first A-League Women’s goals in the second-half, to give new coach Paul Temple his first win as coach of Wellington on Sunday evening.

The win is only the club’s sixth in 34 games and provides the Phoenix with a major boost heading into the international break.

Meanwhile, the Wanderers languish in bottom place on the standings and were delivered a further blow when Melissa Caceres was stretchered off the field with a suspected leg injury.

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Her injury saw Talia Younis come on in her place, who became the youngest player in A-Leagues history at 14 years, 11 months and 26 days, beating the previous record set by Matildas star Sam Kerr.

Both sides came into Round 2 off the back of opening round defeats to Melbourne City and Sydney FC respectively, and sought to bounce back before the upcoming break. Western Sydney started strongly and came close in the 22nd minute when Maliah Morris’ cross was diverted just wide from Bethany Gordon.

The visitors grew into the game as a tight opening stanza drew to a close, with Fraser beginning to stamp her authority on the contest.

Fraser twice tested the Wanderers goal, first firing an effort straight at Kaylie Collins after riding a number of challenges, before rocketing a long-range strike against the crossbar minutes later.

After the break, a lovely through-ball from Alexia Apostolakis found Sophie Harding, but she got the ball got caught in her feet and cost the Wanderers a great chance on goal.

Moments later, Caceres went down after an accidental collision with Grace Wisnewski, which saw her evening come to an end and pave the way for Younis to take the field.

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Wellington would once again gain a foothold in the contest and this time they were rewarded on the scoresheet, as Michaela Foster’s cross was nodded home by Speckmaier, scoring her first A-Leagues goal in the process.

The Wanderers went searching for an equaliser and both Holly Caspers and Danika Matos came close, with the latter denied by a strong stop from Rylee Foster.

Their fightback was short lived as the Phoenix wrapped up the three points in style.

Manaia Elliott won the ball back in on the edge of the Wellington box, before putting it on a platter for Fraser, who smartly dummied her way past one Wanderers defender and fired an unstoppable long range effort into the bottom corner.

Minutes later, Fraser turned provider for Elliott, who twice had efforts denied, before volleying a stinging effort past Collins to wrap up an impressive victory.

Elliott almost had a second in the dying seconds, when her shot at the near post was parried onto the woodwork by Collins.

The Talking Point

Talia Younis stole all the headlines on Sunday evening, as she made A-Leagues history at CommBank Stadium.

Younis became the youngest player in A-Leagues history at 14 years, 11 months and 26 days, beating the previous record set by Matildas star Sam Kerr, when she came on for Melissa Caceres in the second-half.

She signed with the Wanderers in July after training with the Wanderers Academy boys squads for four seasons and it took until just Round 2 for her to make her debut.

Incredibly, her date of birth of October 26, 2008 means she’s the competition’s first player to be born after the league started only a day earlier.

The 14-year-old had some moments when she came on and could be set for more action if Caceres is set to miss time due to injury.

The star

Macey Fraser introduced herself to the Liberty A-League with a stunning performance on Sunday evening.

In only her second game in the competition, Fraser thrived in the middle of the park, causing all sorts of headache in attack. She ended up getting a deserved goal to wrap up the win late in the contest, after coming close twice from the edge of the area.

Not only did her long range shooting catch the eye, but her impressive dribbling and football IQ – which was on show in the lead-up to her goal as her hesitation opened up the space for her to fire from range.

And if her performance on Sunday is anything to go by, then her highlight reel is certainly set to be must see when it’s all set and done at the end of the season.

What this means

Wellington go into the international break full of confidence after a stirring victory on the road.

Back to back home games await against difficult opposition in Brisbane Roar and Western United, which will provide a great test for Paul Temple’s exciting, young side.

Meanwhile, the only way is up for Western Sydney after two losses from two games.

Robbie Hooker has only had a matter of weeks to embed his style of play on the Wanderers squad and will be hoping to use the break to get his charges back on track.

They next face Newcastle Jets on the road on November 5.