Rise of the Phoenix: Wellington soar to historic first, NZ legend caps debut with stunner

Wellington Phoenix have won back-to-back games for the first time in their Liberty A-League history after upstaging Brisbane Roar 2-1 on Saturday.

Mariana Speckmaier broke the deadlock in the sixth minute at Sky Stadium before legendary New Zealand international Annalie Longo capped her highly anticipated ‘Nix debut with a stunning goal to seal the points in the 85th minute.

A stoppage-time rocket from Mia Corbin reduced the deficit but the high-flying Phoenix defeated Brisbane for the first time ever after one defeat and two previous losses, while the Roar’s perfect start to the season came to an end.

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Brisbane entered the contest undefeated across their three previous meetings with Wellington, but the Roar were on the back foot early.

Despite losing Grace Wisnewski to a concerning knee injury which left the midfielder in tears inside a minute, the Phoenix opened the scoring after six minutes.

Speckmaier broke the deadlock with a sublime header – the Venezuela international rose highest to glance a free-kick into the back of the net.

Brisbane slowly grew into the game as the half progressed, with Matildas midfielder Tameka Yallop at the heart of their play.

Yet, Wellington nearly doubled the lead five minutes before half-time when Speckmaier rattled the crossbar with a sensational long-range effort.

The Roar continued to push numbers forward in search of an equaliser, though the ‘Nix looked relatively comfortable defensively.

There was a big moment just past the hour mark when New Zealand international Annalie Longo emerged from the bench and was handed the captain’s armband for her highly anticipated Wellington debut.

Brisbane nearly equalised in stunning fashion with 16 minutes remaining.

Corbin showcased her strength as the American forward fended off her opponent and fired a curling effort on target but a scrambling Brianna Edwards – playing in the absence of Rylee Foster – desperately pushed the shot onto the crossbar as the ball bounced back down into her hands.

Longo made sure of the points with a moment of individual brilliance inside the final five minutes of regulation after she drifted into the penalty area, cut back onto her right foot and unleashed an unstoppable strike into the back of the net.

Corbin did find the back of the net in the fourth minute of stoppage time to set up a nervy finish, but Wellington held on.

The talking point

Never before had Wellington won back-to-back games in the Liberty A-League, but that changed on Saturday.

With a new coach and foreigners now able to play for Wellington, the ‘Nix have made history after claiming the scalp of Brisbane.

It’s not only the results but the performances through three rounds.

The star

After featuring at the FIFA Women’s World Cup, Longo ticked off a “childhood dream” by joining the Phoenix in the off-season.

The two-time Liberty A-League champion had always dreamed of playing professional football in New Zealand, having previously represented Sydney FC and Melbourne Victory.

She had to wait for her debut due to injury, which left her sidelined for the opening two rounds.

But on Saturday, the 32-year-old made her bow and after 23 minutes, she was on the scoresheet.

What it means

Wellington, for now at least, are top of the table. They have never played finals football but that drought could come to an end based on their early season form.

The Phoenix have six points from a possible nine and now look ahead to next week’s showdown with last seasons’ Grand Finalists Western United (November 12).

Brisbane, meanwhile, and their 100% record was ruined by the home side.

The Roar will look to bounce back on the road against Central Coast Mariners (November 12) in Round 4.