Paul Ifill picked up the man-of-the-match award from Fox Sports as the Wellington Phoenix made it four wins on the trot by beating Adelaide United 2-1 at Hindmarsh Stadium on Friday night, but it could just as well have gone to any of his team-mates.
There were outstanding performances all over the park as the Phoenix made a mockery of their previous away form by notching a third successive win on the road.
From Mark Paston, who made a terrific save from a Cassio free kick late in the game, through to Ifill at the sharp end everyone made a contribution to take three points from a ground that in the past has been a graveyard for the Phoenix.
It appeared as if the Phoenix were in for another barren night when Bruce Djite, who makes a habit of scoring against them, put the home side ahead in the 10th minute.
This Phoenix side is resilient however and rather than feel sorry for themsleves they settled down to fight their way back into the game and were rewarded when Ifill set Tim Brown up for an equaliser on 14 minutes.
As the action swung from end to end Dani Sanchez got on the end of a cross from the left seven minutes before halftime and his header sneaked just inside Eugene Galekovic-s left hand post to put the Phoenix ahead.
The teams traded blows in an action packed second spell but the Phoenix defence held firm to ensure an outstanding win.
There was a controversial moment three minutes from time when Ifill broke free and was brought down as he prepared to shoot from six metres.
To Ifill-s horror referee Gerard Parsons waved away the penalty claims and rubbed salt in the wound by showing Ifill a yellow card for simulation.
“As I hit the ground I was thinking ‘I-ve got to dust myself down and ;put this (penalty) away to make the game safe-,” Ifill said.
“I couldn-t believe it. Why would I dive when I looked certain to score?”
There is no doubt that when Ifill is in the form he is at present he is a handful for any defence, and Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert went so far as to tell the after-match press conference that he rates Ifill as the best player in the Hyundai A-League.
“Paul is a real talent,” Herbert said.
“He is special and a great guy with it. He can be a game breaker for us.
“Now that he has come through the injuries he sustained last year and the beginning of this season I think he is the best player in the competition.”
Ifill said those words were “very flattering”.
“It is nice to be appreciated by a manager because I-ve worked with some who haven-t,” Ifill said with a laugh.
“But honestly, that result was down to team spirit. We have balance in the side and everyone plays for each other.
“We might have a thin squad but there is real competition for places and with the lads we have on the bench those on the field have nowhere to hide.
“What makes the result good is the way it was achieved. We battled every inch of the way.
“In the past we-ve never won ugly. We-ve played better than this at times this season and got nothing from it.”
Not only was it an unprecedented third successive away win, it was also the first time in the club-s history that the Phoenix had come from behind to win on the road.
“I didn-t know that but I did think at halftime that we had never won in that fashion during my time here and I wanted to make sure we carried on with the job,” Ifill said.
“Everyone put in a massive shift and we got the rewards.”