Phoenix are now unbeaten in five games and the win consolidates their fourth place on the ladder. The Daily Telegraph, Sydney
By Dave Daniel
Wellington Phoenix beat Western Sydney Wanderers 1-0 at the Westpac Stadium on December 28. The experience of hanging in there for a gritty victory will stand the team in good stead as the season progresses. Spectators love to see the goals fly in, but managers will tell you that it is the one goal victories against strong opponents that often give them the greatest satisfaction.
A question mark over the penalty
This game could have gone either way and the only goal provided some controversy. Roy Krishna went down in the box having appeared to be clipped by Daniel Alessi as he went past him in the penalty area. Replays showed minimal contact although it was worth noting that the Wanderers players did not seem interested in protesting the decision.
Krishna took the spot kick and his poor effort was parried by Ante Covic and he rushed in to blast the rebound home much to the keeper’s disappointment. This was no more than the Phoenix deserved as they poured forward with pace and movement, causing the Wanderers all sorts of problems.
The Wanderers look dangerous
Soon after Krishna’s strike the Wanderers started to make their own chances, particularly down the flanks with Rukavytsya and Juric running at the Phoenix defenders who were clearly spooked by their pace and swift passing. They also had pretty impressive height and physical presence in the area and as the crosses came in the Wellington defence was anything but confident as Glenn Moss seemed nervous during a period that really should have seen the Wanderers equalise.
Haliti, Rukavytsya, Juric and Golec all had efforts blocked or saved but you can’t knock the resolve and commitment of this Phoenix team. Sometimes defending is not pretty and just means putting bodies on the line.
The 2nd half saw the Wanderers gain more control and although the Phoenix still created some good openings, no-one in the 8,802 crowd would have been surprised if an equaliser had gone in.
Quality play at the death earn three valuable points
The final minutes gave us two moments of commitment and intelligence that saw the Wellington side home.
In the four-minute stoppage time Moss made a great stop, diving to his left to parry substitute Jaushua Sotirio’s shot with Juric lining up the rebound. Albert Riera threw himself forward to block the strike and the ball was cleared. It was total commitment and epitomised the character that the Wellington side showed.
Then in the final minute of the game, Roly Bonevacia, had possession and was being hounded by three opponents. He threw a dummy, left one behind and went to skip between the others, drawing the foul. It was intelligent play, earning his team the free kick and also valuable time. So there you have it, commitment and intelligence together, a very powerful mix.
Coaches, venues and the licence
There is talk today of Ernie Merrick signing an extension to his contract and this is welcome news. The Phoenix owners also deserve a pat on the back as they have left Merrick alone to take charge of team affairs while providing solid support behind the scenes.
What’s needed now is to get the club’s A League licence extended. And can we somehow have a 15,000 seater stadium in Wellington or the Hutt Valley, with the crowd hugging the touchline? What an atmosphere that would create.
Finally a word for Sydney Wanderers coach, Tony Popovic, who’s team are not Asian champions for nothing and despite being winless will surely climb the table with more performances like this.
See you next time.
(The Phoenix continued their winning way on New Year’s Eve with an impressive 3-1 victory over Adelaide United to move up to third on the A league table.)