Coach Herbert A Believer


Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert was over the moon after his team beat Sydney FC 3-2 at Westpac Stadium on Friday night to take another step in the Hyundai A-League playoff finals.

In a pulsating second half during which five goals were scored, the Phoenix took a two-goal advantage only to be pegged back to 2-2 before talisman Paul Ifill settled the tie from the penalty spot.

Asked if he had been confident his side could score again after Sydney equalised Herbert answered in the affirmative.

“I-ve never stopped believing in this side for five years, and I never will,” he said.

“It would have been an injustice if we hadn-t won because I thought we dominated the game.

“Again we missed simple chances and I-m just glad they didn-t come back to hurt us.”

After a goalless first half captain for the night Tim Brown put the Phoenix in front two minutes into the second spell, and when Ben Sigmund thundered home a header in the 79th minute the home side appeared to have the game in safe keeping.

Sydney had other ideas however and two lapses of concentration in the Phoenix ranks allowed talented young striker Joel Chianese to net twice in three minutes.

Such a body blow would have been enough to sink many teams, but once again the Phoenix showed tremendous character to fight back immediately.

With four minutes left on the clock Ifill weaved his way into the penalty area and was tripped from behind by Sydney central defender Michael Beauchamp.

Three times in recent games Ifill has been upended in the penalty area only to be denied penalty kicks by officialdom, but this time referee Chris Beath pointed to the spot after taking a second or two to confirm his thoughts.

There was a delay before Ifill could take the kick and the talented striker admitted his nerves were jangling as he waited.

“With four minutes to go in an elimination game it was a little bit nerve-wracking and they were doing their best to put me off,” Ifill said.

“It took a long time; it-s nicer when you can just put the ball down and put it in the back of the net.

“I don-t like the waiting around but at the end of the day I stuck it in the net and we go on so I-m pretty pleased.”