The Wellington Phoenix have recorded back-to-back wins for the first time this Isuzu UTE A-League season to jump into the top six.
The Phoenix have beaten the Brisbane Roar 1-0 at Kayo Stadium in Redcliffe, courtesy of a second-half header from Polish striker Oskar Zawada.
It is Zawada’s fifth goal in his past seven games and has lifted the Nix from seventh to fourth on the ladder and just a point off third.
“We brought him in to score goals. He’s our striker,” Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay told media post-match when asked about his number nine.
“Sometimes foreign players take a bit of time to adjust to their team and also to adjust to the competition and I think he’s starting to realise and understand the way that we play and where he needs to be, especially when we’re attacking. And he does a lot of work for the team off the ball as well.
“He’s a very important player for us and hopefully he can continue in this fashion.”
The Phoenix are just the second team this season to leave Brisbane with three points and it is the first time in club history they’ve recorded back-to-back wins over the Roar in Queensland.
“Brisbane haven’t conceded a lot of goals this season. Defensively they set-up very well and they work as a unit.
“We spoke about it before the game about being patient and trying to break them down. We knew it would be a close game and I said to them at halftime one goal will win this game.
“I think this is a very important game, a very big game for us to walk away with three points.”
Talay is proud of how the players overcame their travel botch-up, which forced the team to fly through Sydney and wait for four hours at the airport before heading to Brisbane.
“The preparation for me wasn’t ideal, but overall the boys worked really hard and they grinded out the result.
“We had some good moments with the ball and I don’t think we gave anything. Oli (Sail) made a fantastic towards the back end and that’s why he’s there and like I said this is a very important win for us.
“We’ve been playing some good football without getting the results at times, but today I think the boys worked hard. It was a bit of a grind and they grinded through it, especially after we scored and we changed our formation to defend a little bit more.”
Ufuk Talay made two enforced changes to the XI which started last Saturday’s dramatic 1-0 win at Sydney FC. Yan Sasse came in to replace suspended attacking midfielder Bozhidar Kraev and Josh Laws was named at centre back in place of Scott Wootton, who is nursing a calf strain. Finn Surman, Sam Sutton and Noah Karunaratne came on to the bench.
The Phoenix dominated possession from the opening whistle but struggled to create any clear-cut opportunities in the opening 10 minutes.
Instead it was the Roar who were dangerous with their limited opportunities on the counter-attack.
Nikola Mileusnic got in behind the Nix back four three times at the start of the match, forcing a great save from Oli Sail before having a goal ruled out for offside.
Wellington’s best chance of the first-half fell to Zawada in the 11th minute. The Polish striker muscled his way past Brisbane defender Scott Neville to get on the end of a direct ball from Tim Payne but scuffed his left-footed shot and it dribbled into the arms of Roar ‘keeper Jordan Holmes.
Otherwise the hosts defended resolutely, frustrating the Phoenix and limiting their opportunities.
Captain Alex Rufer blazed high and wide from long-range in the 38th minute, fullback Callan Elliot headed an enticing ball from Rufer over the bar shortly before the break and David Ball was unable to test Holmes from the edge of the box after some tidy build-up from the Nix in stoppage time.
Laws and Payne also had to produce a couple of timely interventions and blocks to ensure Brisbane didn’t take the halftime lead.
Sasse looked lively at the start of the second-half and blasted a right-footed volley narrowly wide of Holmes’ goal in the 53rd minute.
The Brazilian was substituted shortly after with Talay looking to his bench in a bid to break the deadlock. Sasse and Rufer were replaced by Ben Old and Steven Ugarkovic.
He didn’t have to wait long for the breakthrough with Zawada heading the Phoenix in front in the 65th minute. He nodded home an inch-perfect cross from Lucas Mauragis at the back post.
Brisbane coach Warren Moon responded to going down by making a triple-change and changing his formation. The Nix too changed their shape with centre back Finn Surman replacing Kosta Barbarouses and forming a back five.
Ball had a chance to give Wellington some breathing space in the 81st minute. The Englishman showed great strength in the Roar box to hold of a Brisbane defender but his shot didn’t trouble Jordan Holmes.
Sail produced two fine bits of goalkeeping late in the game to ensure the Phoenix held on for the win.
He pulled off a great reflex save to keep out a powerful shot from Roar substitute Joseph Knowles in the 86th minute and then denied Knowles a second time deep in stoppage time, staying big at his near post to keep out what would have been a late, late equaliser.
The Wellington Phoenix men will return home tomorrow before turning their attentions to next Sunday afternoon’s match against the second-placed Central Coast Mariners at Sky Stadium.
Wellington Phoenix: 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES (3. Finn SURMAN 73rd), 9. Oskar ZAWADA (24. Oskar VAN HATTUM 90th), 10. David BALL, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 14. Alex RUFER (c) (5. Steven UGARKOVIC 57th), 17. Callan ELLIOT, 21. Joshua LAWS 23. Clayton LEWIS, 31. Yan SASSE (8. Ben OLD 56th).
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 19. Sam SUTTON, 35. Noah KARUNARATNE.
Brisbane Roar: 23. Jordan HOLMES (gk), 2. Scott NEVILLE, 3. Jordan COURTNEY-PERKINS, 5. Thomas ALDRED (c), 6. Connor CHAPMAN (28. Joseph KNOWLES 72nd), 7. Rahmat AKBARI (35. Louis ZABALA 57th), 8. Riku DANZAKI (11. Jez LOFTHOUSE 72nd), 10. Nikola MILEUSNIC, 17. Carlo ARMIENTO (13. Henry HORE 57th), 19. Jack HINGERT (16. Joshua BRINDELL-SOUTH 72nd), 27. Kai TREWIN.
Unused substitutes: 1. Macklin FREKE (gk), 4. Anton MILINARIC.
9. Oskar ZAWADA (Wellington Phoenix) – 65th
2. Scott NEVILLE (Brisbane Roar) – yellow – 15th
31. Yan SASSE (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 31st
12. Lucas MAURAGIS (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 90+1
10. David BALL (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 90+5