At Sky Stadium, Wellington: Wellington Phoenix 2 (Ava Pritchard 75′, Grace Wisnewski 90+9′) Melbourne victory 2 (Alana Murphy 4, Melina Ayers 26′) HT: 0-2
Grace Wisnewski scored with the final kick of the game as Wellington Phoenix staged a dramatic comeback to draw 2–2 against defending champions Melbourne Victory in their final game of the A-League Women’s season.
While the result wasn’t enough to lift the Phoenix off the bottom of the table, it could have serious consequences for Victory’s last hope.
Victory currently occupy fourth place but could be denied a semi-final berth if Canberra United beat Melbourne City in their final game on Sunday night.
They were now in the usual position to cheer on their bitter rivals, having thrown away a 2-0 lead against the Phoenix.
The win seemed to cross after they relentlessly penalized two early defensive errors.
Alana Murphy put them ahead within five minutes after her free-kick crashed through the Phoenix wall, veteran midfielder Betsy Hassett was guilty of ducking as the ball hurtled towards her head.
Melina Ayers then turned Marisa van der Meer into the penalty area and blasted the ball into the roof of the net to emphatically double Victory’s lead on 26 minutes.
The goal followed a comical sequence of defending against the Phoenix, with Mackenzie Barry mischecking a pass from goalkeeper Brianna Edwards and setting the ball out for a throw-in.
But the game turned on its head in the second half and it was the Phoenix who punished Victory’s mistakes to grab a point at death.
The Phoenix dragged itself back into the game when substitute Ava Pritchard kicked the ball into an empty net after Emma Main mowed down goalkeeper Casey Dumont in the 75th minute.
Dumont was left behind after a limp pass from Kayla Morrison just outside the box.
The Phoenix couldn’t resist scoring the equalizer later on.
Wisnewski converted with an acrobatic effort in the ninth minute of stoppage time after another mistake by Dumont.
Dumont spilled what appeared to be a routine save after Kate Taylor launched long and Main fired a header towards goal.
Needing a win to climb to the bottom of the table, the Phoenix players sprinted back to the halfway point, but time ran out, referee Georgia Ghirardello blew full-time right after the restart.
“This season we lose that so often by one goal, even though we work and never give up. Today we didn’t do that,” said coach Natalie Lawrence.
“Today we found that goal even though we knew a draw wasn’t good enough and wouldn’t take us off the bottom of the table.”
The dramatic draw was a bittersweet way to end the season.
The Phoenix improved their points tally from year one, but have still finished in the same position – one point behind Newcastle Jets.
“Did we achieve our goal of not finishing at the bottom? No, we didn’t. We came up short. We left with 13 points and a better goal difference, but in the end we still finished bottom,” added Lawrence.
“But when I look at how we finished that game and that second half, after three games in eight days, you have to be a little excited about what this team can produce if we keep the players we need.” .”
As for Victory, they face an anxious wait. Their coach Jeff Hopkins said they are likely to be up in the air when City play Canberra.