EUGENE DADI may be playing like a being from another planet for the Wellington Phoenix but any thought that he might be an extra-terrestrial superhero came to a crunching end at Westpac Stadium last Friday.
Shortly after scoring the Phoenix-s opener in their 3-0 win against North Queensland Fury – the Ivorian-s third goal in just two matches for his new club – Dadi was floored in a sickening head clash with Fury defender Matthew Smith.
A huge gash opened up above Dadi-s eye, blood pouring from the wound, and he was forced from the field. The cut required 15 stitches on the night which were later removed and replaced with 21 stitches.
“There was a lot of blood, but hey, I-m human I think,” laughed the 36-year-old striker, who burst on to the scene with the Phoenix in just two matches in Wellington.
“You don-t want to know what it was like getting the cut re-stitched, there was more blood – green blood!”
He announced his arrival in the capital with two stunning goals in his debut match – a 3-1 win against Brisbane Roar – including a freakish overhead strike.
It-s been a dream start for Dadi at the Phoenix, who has already become a huge fan favourite, but the player himself is more circumspect about his performance in his first two games in yellow and black.
“No, I-m not dreaming. I-ve been working hard every day throughout the season and now I have the trust of my coach (Ricki Herbert) and that has helped. He has given me the wings to achieve and to do something good.”
Dadi said the cut above his eye would not prevent him from taking the field in a very special match for him on Friday night – a match against the club that let him go, Perth Glory, at his old stomping ground.
“It-s important for me to be there and try to get the three points. Quite simply that-s it. But it will be great to go back to Perth and see all the fans that were so good to me while I was there. I expect something special but the most important thing is for us to get the win.”
A win against Perth will cement the Phoenix-s position in the top four and put them in a prime position to make the Hyundai A-League playoffs for the first time. But Perth, like the Phoenix, have made their home ground a fortress this season and will be tough to beat. Also on coach Herbert-s mind will be the trip back across the Nullabor and on to Melbourne for a Tuesday night match against the Victory.
“It-s probably a good time to go on a road trip after three successive wins. The mood-s really high and the confidence is there. We-ve got two big games but probably two we can get some points from.”
Given the Phoenix have two matches just days apart, Herbert has opted to take a 17-man squad to Australia and the team will not return to Wellington in between matches.
“Perth is a long way, so we won-t work the players hard. A lot of it will be around recovery and getting to Melbourne.”
Fullback Tony Lochhead will miss both away matches but should come back into consideration for the Phoenix-s match against Adelaide United in Christchurch on January 30.
British striker Chris Greenacre has recovered from injury and could see some gametime in Perth and Melbourne.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Manny MUSCAT, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 15. Eugene DADI, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES, 40. Liam REDDY (gk). *two to be omitted*
In: Chris GREENACRE (return from injury), DANIEL (promoted) DIEGO (promoted).
Out: Tony LOCHHEAD (groin – 2 weeks).
Unavailable: Mark PASTON (gk, leg – season).