Western United fell to a second defeat of the 2023/24 Liberty A-League Women season, going down 3-0 against Wellington Phoenix at Porirua Park on Sunday.
Despite dominating much of the first half, United spurned its chances and went into the break 2-0 down after two set piece goals from the Phoenix.
Western United continued to create chances in the second half but a Kiewa Hieda own goal from another corner in the final 15 minutes gave the Green and Black a mountain to climb.
Chloe Logarzo pulled one back at the start of injury time with a sensational long-range effort, but there was to be no miraculous late comeback as United succumbed to defeat.
Mark Torcaso welcomed both Jaclyn Sawicki and Tyla Jay Vlajnic back into the starting line-up after they missed last week, the former leading the team out as captain.
Kahli Johnson also returned to the starting XI and Torcaso rewarded Alyssa Dall’Oste for her fine form with another start, while Hillary Beall came onto the bench.
Melissa Taranto missed out with the ankle knock that saw her substituted in the first half against Melbourne City last week.
With a bumper crowd at the more intimate Porirua Park, Wellington got on the front foot early and had the first shot in anger with Kate Taylor firing just over the crossbar from long range.
A fair wind was blowing in United’s favour at the start of the game and the Green and Black looked to take advantage with a big chance in the seventh minute.
After some brilliant play on the right-hand side, Hannah Keane swung a cross into the box and Chloe Logarzo headed towards goal unmarked, but she just couldn’t get enough on her header to steer it into the net.
Logarzo turned provider soon after as United came even closer to finding the net. After some scintillating one-touch play, United’s No.6 teed up Adriana Taranto to shoot but her effort smacked into the crossbar and went over for a goal kick.
Johnson was a handful on the left-hand side and had a couple of chances miss narrowly, but United’s inability to take its chances played into Wellington’s hands.
One set piece was all the hosts needed to pinch the lead with a delivery evading everyone at the near post and falling kindly for Chloe Knott to fire home from close range.
That goal gave the crowd a huge lift and Wellington spent much of the rest of the half on the front foot. Dall’Oste was called on to make two good saves to keep it at 1-0 and there was an incredible goalmouth scramble where United seemingly took an eternity to clear the danger.
Hope Breslin was next to come close for Wellington when she was in acres of space at the back post, but she didn’t get any control on her shot and blazed it over the crossbar.
The hosts continued to pile on the pressure and the second goal was just around the corner, coming via an excellent Macey Fraser free-kick into the top corner.
An action-packed first half had time for another momentum swing as United got back on the front foot and missed another couple of chances, with Keane seeing a shot blocked and Sawicki unable to get a shot away after rounding the goalkeeper.
The second half really continued in the same way that the majority of the first played out with United getting forward and going in search of a way back into the game.
Wellington had the wind and were able to threaten going forward, but the Green and Black showed an excellent ability to play the ball out of the back and get into the final third.
Keane had a couple of looks in behind but Rhylee Foster was able to beat her to the ball and when Keiwa Hieda came off the bench on the hour mark, she injected an immediate threat up front.
The Japanese winger created two good openings soon after coming on, the second of which should’ve ended up in the net as Keane missed her kick before Sawicki dragged wide from Johnson’s pass.
Cruelly, though, after her impact off the bench, Hieda had the telling touch as Wellington extended their lead with 15 minutes remaining as the ball skimmed off the top of her head and into the net from a Phoenix corner.
That goal killed any momentum United had and consigned Torcaso’s women to a second defeat of the season, but there was time left for a bit of Logarzo magic as she controlled, beat a player and bent a swerving effort over the goalkeeper and into the roof of the net in added time.