The Wellington Phoenix have convincingly won through to the last 16 of the Australia Cup.
The Phoenix have beaten NPL Tasmania leaders Devonport City Strikers 4-0 in their round of 32 match at Valley Road in Devonport, after leading 1-0 at halftime.
Ben Waine bagged a brace either side of a maiden first team goal for Oskar van Hattum before Bozhidar Kraev marked his debut off the bench by scoring Wellington’s fourth.
Their prize is a round of 16 match with beaten A-League grand finalists Melbourne City.
The two sides met in the quarter-finals of last season’s competition, with the Nix prevailing in a memorable penalty shoot-out.
Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay says it was a good, professional performance from the players to overcome Devonport.
“The first 15/20 minutes were always going to be a little bit tough because you expect them, playing at home with the excitement of playing in the Cup, to have a go,” Talay said.
“I think the early goal was good because it settled the team and I think we controlled the game in the second-half completely.
“Overall pretty happy with the outcome tonight and pretty happy with the performance, especially the second half performance. And scoring four goals is very good for the team.”
The round of 16 draw took place shortly after the match and Talay is quickly turning his attention to Melbourne City.
“We’re playing a very good side [but] we’re in the same space pre-season wise with Melbourne City.
“It’s going to be a challenging game. We obviously play every Cup game away from home so it’s not going to be an easy game.
“It’s a good pre-season game to get playing against a good opposition while thinking at the back of our heads that there’s a trophy at the end of it.”
Waine fired a warning shot narrowly wide of Devonport’s goal just five minutes into the match, but it was the hosts who had the first clear-cut chance.
In the sixth minute Devonport striker Roberto Fernandez Garrido forced Sail into a sharp save and moments later the Spaniard flashed a shot wide from just eight yards out.
The Phoenix quickly regained their composure and Waine soon put them in front when he slipped a shot past Strikers goalkeeper Keegan Smith after being put through on goal by Kosta Barbarouses.
Waine was lively throughout and forced the former Nix ‘keeper to make a further three saves in the next quarter of an hour.
The Phoenix had three quarters of possession in the first half but Devonport did well to limit the number of opportunities for Wellington in the final third.
The Strikers also created the odd opening of their own, with Ali Dulleh calling Sail into action six minutes from halftime.
It was the closest the hosts came to an equaliser in the first-half, with the Nix going to the break 1-0 up.
Scott Wootton came close to doubling the Phoenix’s lead from a corner four minutes into the second-half, but unfortunately for the centre back his header went straight at Smith, who did just enough to keep it out of the net.
There was nothing the Devonport ‘keeper to stop van Hattum’s header 12 minutes later, with the academy product expertly directing a Clayton Lewis cross over Smith and into the goal.
Moments later Waine scored the Nix’s third when he got on the end of a direct ball from Wootton and lobbed Smith from the edge of the area.
The All Whites striker had a chance to complete his hat-trick midway through the second-half, but his shot from the edge of the area fizzed narrowly wide of goal.
Kraev completed the scoring in the 76th minute, with the Bulgarian international heading home a Nicholas Pennington corner less than 10 minutes into his club debut.
Academy players Marco Lorenz and Noah Karunaratne also came off the bench in the second-half to make their maiden first team appearances.
The Phoenix will now head to Sydney, where they will play a training match against Central Coast Mariners this weekend.
The date and venue for their Australia Cup round of 16 match against Melbourne City will be confirmed in the coming days.
Wellington Phoenix: 20. Oli SAIL (c), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 17. Callan ELLIOT (35 Noah KARUNARATNE 89th), 18. Ben WAINE (36. Riley BIDOIS 77th), 19. Sam SUTTON, 21. Joshua LAWS (11. Bozhidar KRAEV 68th), 23. Clayton LEWIS, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM (39. Marco LORENZ 89th)
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Finn SURMAN, 34. Jackson MANUEL
Devonport City Strikers: 1. Keegan SMITH (gk), 4. Toby BARTON, 6. Fahim MORADI, 8. Kieran MULRANEY (c), 9. Roberto FERNANDEZ GARRIDO, 12. Charles BIDWELL (11. Brody DENEHEY 90+1), 15. Henry ANDREWS (14. Max REISSIG 81st), 19. Taylor LAST, 22. Ali DULLEH, 23. Connor PARKE (5. Aaron KIDMAS 88th), 24. Nick LANAU-ATKINSON (10. Joel STONE 61st)
Unused substitutes: 21. Tom PEARCE (gk), 3. Dom SMITH, 17. Yasin MOHAMMADI
18. Ben WAINE (Wellington Phoenix) – 9th
24. Oskar VAN HATTUM (Wellington Phoenix) – 61st
18. Ben WAINE (Wellington Phoenix) – 64th
11. Bozhidar KRAEV (Wellington Phoenix) – 76th
8. Kieran MULRANEY (Devonport City Strikers) – yellow – 41st
21. Joshua LAWS (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 44th
12. Charles BIDWELL (Devonport City Strikers) – yellow – 56th
4. Toby BARTON (Devonport City Strikers) – yellow – 59th