Canberra United slumped to a heavy 0-5 defeat to Wellington Phoenix, who were in irresistible form at Sky Stadium in New Zealand claiming a first win of the 2022/23 Liberty A-League season.

The Phoenix had only managed three goals all season prior to this fixture but found their goalscoring touch on a sunny afternoon across the Tasman in which everything that could go wrong did so for the visiting team.

Unsurprisingly, having defeated Newcastle Jets at McKellar Park in the last round, Head Coach Njegosh Popovich named an unchanged starting eleven with the only change being on the bench with the welcome return of central defender Kennedy Faulknor.

However, it was a sluggish United performance in the opening half, the Phoenix having the better of the early exchanges and forcing pressure onto the Canberra defence who appeared a tad jittery when pressed by the yellow-shirted Wellington attackers.  

Ava Pritchard should probably have scored for the hosts just past the half-hour, as Millie Clegg freed the centre-forward who rounded Chloe Lincoln but was unable to apply the finishing touch required into the gaping net.

Canberra chances were fleeting, Vesna Milivojevic looking the most likely to create something for United with her vicious in-swinging deliveries, but opportunities were at a premium for the visiting team who were left with sporadic breakaways led by the hard-running Michelle Heyman.

It was no surprise then when Phoenix deservedly took the lead shortly before the break when they struck off a contentiously awarded corner. Paige Satchell’s initial header was nodded off the line by Laura Hughes, but the ball fell straight to Clegg who volleyed into the bottom corner.

And they were two to the good moments later. Clegg was played in down the right channel and her fizzing cross-shot was palmed away by Lincoln only for Betsy Hassett to follow up and gleefully ram the loose ball into the back of the empty net to give Wellington a 2-0 half-time lead.

It went from bad to worse right at the start of the second half as Phoenix extended their lead within seconds of the kick-off. Once again, the goal originated from a ball down the full-back channel with Pritchard arriving unmarked in the centre to steer a finish past Lincoln.

United’s afternoon was summed up in the 63rd minute when they were awarded a penalty for handball. Milivojevic however saw her spot-kick beaten away Wellington goalkeeper Brianna Edwards.

But it was a glory day for the Phoenix who added a fourth goal seven minutes from time as Hassett got in behind the beleaguered United defence, onto a reverse pass from Isabel Gomez, to slide her second of the match past Lincoln into the bottom corner.

And they wrapped it all up with a fifth from another set-piece the ball coming off Michaela Robertson before Emma Ilijoski unfortunately steered it into her own net when attempting to clear.


Wellington Phoenix 5 (Clegg 42’, Hassett 44’, 83’, Pritchard 46’, Ilijoski 87’ (og)) Canberra United 0

Canberra United: 18. Chloe LINCOLN, 6. Laura HUGHES, 7. Ellie BRUSH, 8. Sasha GROVE, 9. WU Chengshu (4. Holly MURRAY 83’), 11. Grace JALE, 12. Hayley TAYLOR-YOUNG (5. Emma ILIJOSKI 46’), 17. Vesna MILIVOJEVIC, 19. Nickoletta FLANNERY (16. Kennedy FAULKNOR 59’), 23. Michelle HEYMAN, 24. Ellen GETT (13. Sofia CHRISTOPHERSON 67’)

Substitutes not used: 22. Keely SEGAVCIC

Yellow Cards: None