The Carlsberg Football United Tour finished on a high note with the Wellington Phoenix and English Premier League side Newcastle United producing a high-class encounter before over 30,000 people at Westpac Stadium on Saturday evening.
Newcastle United won 1-0 thanks to a 41st minute headed goal by Yoan Gouffran, but the Phoenix again more than played their part with another attacking display.
Coach Ernie Merrick said in his opinion the Phoenix played better than they had in the 2-1 win over West Ham United three days earlier.
“Overall it has been a terrific tour, both on and off the pitch,” Merrick said.
“Two top-class EPL sides produced entertaining football and there could have been more goals tonight.
“Both goalkeepers pulled off a couple of great saves and I’m over the moon with the way our boys played.
“They continually built up from the back, kept possession really well and created goal-scoring chances up front.
“It was one of those nights when the ball wouldn’t go in the net but our football was a step up from the last game and against a very slick team.”
One person impressed by the A-League side was Newcastle goalkeeper Rob Elliott. “I thought they were excellent,” Elliott said.
“They put us under pressure the whole time and I thought it was a really good game.
“You could say we were slightly lucky to win 1-0.” Merrick was delighted to get two tough games against high-quality opposition to see how his squad was progressing.
“It is coming together nicely and we must ensure we carry on the quality from these two games,” the coach said.
“With Roly Bonevacia (former Ajax Academy graduate) due to join us we are looking good.
“Last season we didn’t have cover for injuries such as the one sustained by Albert Riera and for when the All Whites were away.
This time we have.” Merrick also had praise for Miramar’s Tom Doyle who played a full role in both games against the EPL teams.
“How good was Tom? The way he is playing I’m sure he is going to get a contract. It is just a case of when and how we juggle a few things.”
In the early game Sydney FC beat a disappointing West Ham United 3-1.