Isuzu UTE A-League Round 9 Match Review

The Wellington Phoenix remain unbeaten since the Isuzu UTE A-League resumed after the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022™ break.

The Phoenix have earned a point from the distance derby, drawing 1-1 with Perth Glory at Macedonia Park in Perth.

Polish striker Oskar Zawada scored his third goal in four matches to draw the Nix level little over half an hour into the match, after the Glory opened the scoring midway through the first-half.

All Whites goalkeeper Oli Sail made a couple of sharp saves in each half to ensure Wellington secured their fifth draw of the season.

The Phoenix have now taken five points from three games after the A-League’s three-week pause, ensuring they will sit in the top six at Christmas.

Head coach Ufuk Talay was content with a draw, considering the challenges of playing in Western Australia.

“Overall it’s not easy coming to Perth,” Talay told media post-match. “The kick-off time was 12:30am New Zealand time so it was a little bit difficult for the boys and when the game finished it was close to 3am in New Zealand.

“It was also a lot warmer than we expected. Perth is always warm anyway, but we don’t get this heat back in Wellington.

“Overall [I’m] happy. We walk away with a point and we continue the momentum of being unbeaten since the World Cup break.”

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 23: Liam Reddy of the Glory in action during the round nine A-League Men’s match between Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix at Macedonia Park, on December 23, 2022, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Talay concedes it wasn’t the team’s best performance.

“We went down a goal and I think the first time we actually put the ball down and played we actually scored from it.

“Even in the second half there were some good counter moments that we had but we made some poor decisions on the pass or the execution wasn’t good.”

The execution for the Phoenix’s equaliser was good with all three of the club’s new international signings combining. Bulgarian midfielder Bozhidar Kraev drove forward, passed to Brazilian playmaker Yan Sasse, who produced a clever flick to put Zawada through on goal and the imposing Pole tucked a shot into the back of the net.

“The last three weeks we’ve kept the same team, we’ve had some consistency and I think that’s very important. Building partnerships alongside each other, which I think is very important as well.

“They’re slowly getting there. And this is probably the first time they’ve played in this heat. Back in Europe you don’t get this heat in the season so this would have been a different challenge for these boys tonight.”

Ufuk Talay made one enforced change to his starting XI, with Josh Laws replacing Tim Payne at centre back. Payne was left at the team hotel as he had been “throwing up his guts”.

The Phoenix were also two short on the bench with Ben Waine and Ben Old not making the trip to Perth due to illness and injury respectively.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 23: Salim Khelifi of the Glory and Bozhidar Kraev of the Phoenix contest for the ball during the round nine A-League Men’s match between Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix at Macedonia Park, on December 23, 2022, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

After a relatively even but uneventful opening 20 minutes, the Nix soon found themselves behind.

Former Wellington forward David Williams opened the scoring with his head, finding the back of the net in the A-League for the first time since leaving the Phoenix.

Williams glanced a near-post header past Sail after two-time Tunisia international Salim Khelifi delivered an enticing right wing cross.

Sasse came close to an instant response for the Phoenix, but Perth ‘keeper Liam Reddy was able to stop the Brazilian’s first-time effort from eight yards out.

Zawada equalised in the 31st minute after some great interplay from fellow imports Kraev and Sasse put him through on goal. He took one touch and calmly steered his shot past Reddy.

The Polish striker almost had a second a few minutes later when he powerfully volleyed a David Ball cross but Reddy produced a strong save and was quick to regather the loose ball.

Sail was called into action at the other end of the pitch in first-half stoppage time, doing well to keep out a swirling long-range effort from Northern Irishman Aaron McEneff.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA – DECEMBER 23: Oli Sail of the Phoenix in action during the round nine A-League Men’s match between Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix at Macedonia Park, on December 23, 2022, in Perth, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

Both ‘keepers made impressive saves in the second-half.

Reddy was quickly down to his right in the 50th minute to deny Zawada, who produced a quick turn in the box before unleashing a strong left-footed shot.

Sail produced a great reflex stop midway through the half to keep out a dangerous curling free-kick from Jack Clisby.

Oskar Zawada came close to scoring an own goal just a couple of minutes before fulltime. Fortunately for the Phoenix he found the roof of the net with his defensive corner.

The Wellington Phoenix men will return home for Christmas before hosting top of the table Melbourne City in a double-header at Sky Stadium on Monday, January 2.

Wellington Phoenix: 
20. Oli SAIL (gk) (c), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV (14. Alex RUFER 90+2), 12. Lucas MAURAGIS (19. Sam SUTTON 46th), 17. Callan ELLIOT, 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS (13. Nicholas PENNINGTON 76th), 31. Yan SASSE (7. Kosta BARBAROUSES 69th).
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk).

Perth Glory: 33. Liam REDDY (gk), 3. Mark BEEVERS, 6. Aaron MCENEFF, 7. Ryan WILLIAMS (43. Adam ZIMARINO 86th), 8. Mustafa AMINI (c) (19. Zachary DUNCAN 86th), 10. Salim KHELIFI, 14. Jack CLISBY (36. Joseph FORDE 86th), 16. Keegan JELACIC, 18. David WILLIAMS (12. Luke IVANOVIC 63rd), 29. Darryl LACHMAN, 37. Jacob MUIR.
Unused substitutes: 13. Cameron COOK (gk), 2. John KOUTROUMBIS, 20. Giordano COLLI.

18. David WILLIAMS (Perth Glory) – 22nd
9. Oskar ZAWADA (Wellington Phoenix) – 31st

4. Scott WOOTTON (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 5th
23. Clayton LEWIS (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 52nd
21. Joshua LAWS (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 54th
18. David WILLIAMS (Perth Glory) – yellow – 63rd
16. Keegan JELACIC (Perth Glory) – yellow – 81st
9. Oskar ZAWADA (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 90+2
6. Aaron MCENEFF (Perth Glory) – yellow – 90+2