Phoenix & Wanderers claim first points of season in Liberty A-League draw

Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers played out a 1-1 draw in their Liberty A-League showdown at Sky Stadium on Monday.

In a battle of the two bottom teams, Phoenix and Wanderers could not be separated as they claimed their first points of the 2022-23 season.

Sheridan Gallagher’s second-half strike cancelled out Michaela Robertson’s goal in the opening period.

Both sides came into the clash with five losses from their first five games, making it a rich opportunity for the underperforming pair.

Neither grasped their chance, though Wellington and Western Sydney at least now have their first point.

The Wanderers – without new international striker Sarina Bolden – started sharper, and might have gone ahead from two strong early chances.

A loose touch from Phoenix goalkeeper Brianna Edwards allowed Cushla Rue to race onto the ball at the top of the box on 13 minutes.

As Edwards scrambled to recover possession, the former Wellington attacker stroked her effort wide of the empty net.

Five minutes later, Gallagher won a battle of strength with Marisa van der Meer to run clear on goal, only to lose her focus and the chance.

Danika Matos’ long-range effort drew a superb one-handed save from Edwards, and it looked only a matter of time before the Wanderers would take the lead.

But against the run of play, it was Wellington who broke through at a broken-down corner.

Grace Wisnewski rose highest to head a punched clearance back into the hot spot, and Robertson was on hand to poke home when the ball clattered down from the crossbar.

The goal from Wellington’s diminutive forward – who stands at just 1.47m – was the first time the hapless Phoenix have led all season.

It was not to last.

On the hour mark, Amy Harrison picked up a loose ball to thread a pass for Gallagher through Wellington’s defence, and the striker duly finished.

Both sides had chances to win it at the death.

Wellington substitute Charlotte Lancaster mistimed her header in the 89th minute from Ava Pritchard’s superb cross, before Edwards pushed away Bethany Gordon’s bouncing effort with just seconds to go in added time.

The draw leaves the sides stranded at the foot of the table, four points adrift of ninth-placed Perth Glory and 11 shy of Melbourne Victory in fourth, the cut-off for finals football.