FFA Cup review: Wellington Phoenix vs. Western United

The Wellington Phoenix have advanced beyond the FFA Cup’s round of 32 for only the second time in the club’s history.

A young Phoenix side, featuring four debutants, have beaten Western United 1-0 at GMHBA Stadium in Geelong to book a meeting with Melbourne club Avondale FC in the last 16 next Tuesday night.

Ben Waine scored the only goal of the game for the Phoenix in the 35th minute, heading home an inch-perfect cross from right back Louis Fenton.

“It was a great goal,” Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay told media post-game. “I think it was exactly what we worked on with the patterns. You know they played through, found the pocket, got Louis over the top, good delivery and a great finish for Waino.”

“It’s always good for our strikers to score goals to build that confidence.”

Talay made eight changes from the XI that started last Friday’s A-League match against Western Sydney, with Oli Sail, Ben Old and Clayton Lewis the only players backing up.

The starting XI had an average age of just 21 with young Australian midfielder Luka Prso and academy graduates Kurtis Mogg, Finn Surman and Oskar van Hattum all making their debuts for the Phoenix.

James McGarry, Tim Payne, Reno Piscopo, Alex Rufer, Callan Elliot and Gary Hooper weren’t included in the 18-strong matchday squad as they focus on preparing for this Friday’s A-League match against the Newcastle Jets.

“It was a great opportunity to give some minutes to players who haven’t played during the season and also an opportunity for the young boys to showcase what they can do,” Talay said.

“Honestly I thought we started off a little bit timid, the first 10-15 minutes and then I think they grew into the game.

“At the end of the day I think it was a solid performance. We scored a very good goal, I believe and also we defended quite well as well.

“Overall it was a solid performance from the young boys.”

Western United, who themselves fielded a completely changed line-up from the side that upset Melbourne City in the A-League on Saturday, started the brighter of the two sides with Sail, the Phoenix captain for the night, forced to make a couple of smart saves in the opening quarter of an hour.

In between the hosts’ two attempts on goal, van Hattum showed the first glimpse of the Phoenix’s attacking abilities when he created space with a lovely turn on the edge of the area and unleashed a left-footed shot that just went wide of the Western United goal.  

For most of the first half Old looked the most lively of the Wellington players going forward and he went to ground in the box half an hour into the match, but the referee waived away claims for a penalty.

Five minutes later Waine got the breakthrough the Phoenix were after. Lewis found Fenton with some space on the right wing and he delivered a pinpoint cross on to the edge of the six yard box that Waine directed into the far corner of Western United’s goal, well out of reach of their ‘keeper.

Sail ensured Wellington would go into halftime a goal to the good when he parried away a dangerous shot from the edge of the Phoenix box.

Lewis gave Waine an opportunity to double Wellington’s lead early in the second-half, when he found the forward with a perfectly weighted ball over the top. But this time the 20-year-old blazed over the ball as defenders converged.

Waine had another opportunity on the counter in the 64th minute, but he hooked his shot just wide of the near post.

Fit-again left back Sam Sutton, who replaced Mogg in the 69th minute, made an immediate impact in his first appearance of the season, making a timely tackle at the back post to deny Western United one of their best opportunities of the match.

Experienced forwards Jaushua Sotirio and David Ball also came off the bench in the final 25 minutes to help see the game out.

Sail was largely untroubled in goal apart from when he was called on to snuff out a deflected shot in the 75th minute.

The Phoenix will travel to Newcastle tomorrow to prepare for Friday night’s A-League match against the Jets.

Wellington Phoenix: 20. Oli SAIL (gk) (c), 3. Matthew BOZINOVSKI, 8. Ben OLD, 12. Luka PRSO (9. David BALL 73rd min), 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 16. Louis FENTON, 18. Ben WAINE, 23. Clayton LEWIS, 31. Kurtis MOGG (19. Sam SUTTON 66th min), 33. Finn SURMAN, 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM (11. Jaushua SOTIRIO 69th min)
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS, 32. George OTT, 34. Jackson MANUEL

Western United: 37. Ryan SCOTT (gk), 5. Dylan PIERIAS, 12. Dalibor MARKOVIC, 25. Luke DUZEL, 26. Nicolas Milanovic, 27. Jerry SKOTADIS, 31. Adisu BAYEW, 33. Benjamin COLLINS, 34. Christian THEOHAROUS, 44. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (c), 55. Daniel DI FRANCESCO (39. Sabit JAMES 58th min)
Unused substitutes: 30. Charlie EMERY (gk) 29. Ayom MAJOK, 40. James DOYLE, 41. Noah HOLMES, 51. Zac KOCANKOVSKI, 52. Jake NAJDOVSKI

Ben WAINE (Wellington Phoenix) – 35th min