The Phoenix beat the Fiji national side 2-1 Saturday in the first match day of the Fiji Airways Phoenix Tour of Fiji.
As part of the Sinopec pre-season, the Wellington Phoenix travelled to Fiji courtesy of Fiji Airways to play two matches against the national side.
The first match was played at ANZ Stadium in front of a boisterous crowd estimated at around 12,000.
The Fiji side started the stronger of the two, pressing the Phoenix high in defence, with their big forward Osea Vakatalesau using his size and strength to good effect.
In the 24th minute Fiji capitalised on this when Phoenix player captaining his national side, Roy Krishna got the opener. After being played through on goal and one on one with goal keeper Glen Moss, his shot was powerful enough to go under the Phoenix custodian to allow him to easily tap home the rebound.
The roar from the home crowd was deafening and the Fijian’s pace and finish would have pleased Phoenix Head Coach Ernie Merrick who will be looking for him to carry on that form into the A-League in October.
The Fiji goal spurred the Phoenix into action with the Phoenix stepping up their possession and intent.
The midfield trio of Riera, Bonavecia and McGlinchey started to dominate the Fijian midfield and create chances.
Out wide Thomas Doyle was regularly getting forward and creating the Fijian defence real problems as well as linking up well with the Phoenix’ two front strikers in Kwabena Appiah-Kubi and Australian triallist Blake Powell.
This culminated in the Phoenix’ first goal in the 40th minute when Ben Sigmund, playing out from defence found Bonavecia in the middle of the park. A clever flick to Appiah-Kubi saw the wide man run at the Fiji defence. Cutting inside, his pass found Bonavecia arriving at pace. A half tackle saw the ball break to the Phoenix midfielder in the box and he had no hesitation of smashing the ball home over top of the Fijian keeper Akuila Mateisuva.
1-1 at half time and the second half resumed a familiar pattern of the Phoenix dominating possession but Fiji looking very dangerous on the fast break.
On 62 minutes, Vakatalesau was through on goal and while his shot was on target, Moss got enough hand on it to slow it down so Sigmund could get back and clear the ball.
However, the Phoenix’ overwhelming possession had to tell, and eventually it did.
From a Phoenix corner, Tom Doyle finds himself in possession outside the box and unleashes a ferocious shot which flashes across the keeper and into the top right hand corner.
Doyle gave the keeper no chance and capped off an extremely positive 90 minute performance in what was probably a man of the match performance.
2-1 was the final score and a very satisfying start to the pre season.
In the earlier game, the Fiji National U23 side beat the Phoenix’ Premiers/Academy mix side by the same score line of 2-1.
In a Fiji U23 team featuring 10 players from the U20 World Cup played recently in New Zealand and 10 senior U23 players, James McGarry opened the scoring slightly against the run of play.
An even first half gave way to a more open second half. On 54 minutes, the Phoenix concede a corner, and from the resulting action Rusiate Matarerega lashed a strike from outside the box which hit the post and rebounds in.
Fiji U23s winner came in the 80th minute when a lost possession sees Ratu Nakalevu through on goal and his calm finish under Washington Bhongi who had come on for Lewis Italiano was enough to win the game for the Fiji U23s.
Tamupiwa Dimario was named man of the match for his solid defensive performance, breaking up a number of chances and creating momentum going forward.
Wellington Phoenix Premiers/Academy: Italiano (Bgoni 75’), Gulley, Philip, Pratt, Dimario, McGarry, Pratt (Singh 75’), Wilson (Tongue 56’), Khouchabba, Hailmariam, Bell, Gillespie (Mata 89’), McGarry (Cahill-Fleury 61’)
Wellington Phoenix: Moss, Muscat, Durante, Sigmund (Gulley 68), Ridenton, Riera (Dimario 86’), Bonevacia (67 Lia), McGlinchey (Hailmariam 70’), Doyle (Singh 86’), Appiah; (McGarry 70’), Powell.