Men’s Match Review: Wellington Phoenix vs. Adelaide United

The Wellington Phoenix have claimed seven points in as many days in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

The Phoenix have drawn 1-1 with Adelaide United at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney on Saturday evening, after beating Macarthur FC last Sunday and Melbourne Victory on Wednesday.

Mexican playmaker Gael Sandoval put Wellington ahead in the 20th minute and the Nix led until the second minute of second-half stoppage time, when 17-year-old substitute Bernardo Oiliveira headed home from close range to earn Adelaide a share of the spoils.

Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay told media post-game it felt like “we dropped two points tonight”.

“I think we created enough opportunities to win the game but weren’t clinical enough today and disappointed that we conceded so late,” Talay said.

“We could have walked away with the three points but at the end of the day we didn’t lose and we continue.”

While frustrated by the final result, Talay thought his players “put out a very good shift” for their third game in a week.

“The boys showed very good character to push through the game.

“We expected Adelaide to be a lot fresher than us. They didn’t have a mid-week game. Their last game was the weekend before so they had a lot more time to recover and prepare for this game.

“Overall from three games in seven days the boys backed up very well and if we were a lot more clinical in front of goal and scored it would have been a different story.”

Ufuk Talay named the same XI that started the 1-0 win over Victory on Wednesday night, with the only change coming on the bench where fit-again forward Gary Hooper replaced young centre back Finn Surman.

It was an end to end first-half, with goalscoring opportunities aplenty after the opening 10 minutes.

Phoenix playmaker Reno Piscopo had the first shot on target in the 13th minute, when he unleashed a low effort from outside the box straight at Joe Gauci in the Adelaide goal.

A couple of minutes later Wellington ‘keeper Oli Sail was called into action for the first time, standing tall to deny Javier Lopez from six yards out.

English forward David Ball showcased his playmaking skills midway through the half to help put the Phoenix in front. In the 19th minute he threaded a great through ball for Jaushua Sotirio, who shot straight at Gauci.

Ball was at it again moments later when he found Sandoval on the edge of the Adelaide area with the outside of his right foot. The Mexican made no mistake with his opening, taking one touch and then slotting the ball past the Adelaide ‘keeper to give Wellington the lead.

Captain Alex Rufer came close to doubling the Phoenix’s advantage in the 24th minute, when he produced a sublime left-footed volley. But Gauci was able to deny Rufer his maiden A-League goal with a sharp save at his near post.

Adelaide’s goalkeeper also stuck out a strong right hand to stop Sandoval from a tight angle 10 minutes from halftime.

The visitors’ weren’t able to test Sail from their few opportunities, while the Phoenix continued to pepper Adelaide’s goal.

Reds defender Ryan Kitto got back in the nick of time to block a threatening shot from his opposite Tim Payne in the 41st minute and Rufer flicked a header on to the cross-bar from the resulting corner.

It remained 1-0 at the break after Piscopo narrowly missed the mark with two attempted chips in the dying stages of the half.

He found the roof of the net in the 44th minute and then in stoppage time Gauci managed to get a hand to Piscopo’s lofted shot after Ball put him through one-on-one with the Adelaide ‘keeper.

The Phoenix continued to push for a second goal when the second half got underway.

Piscopo and Ball combined to create an opening in the 52nd minute but there wasn’t a Wellington a team-mate to tap the ball home at the back post.

Arguably the best opportunity fell to Sandoval half a dozen minutes later when he was through on goal but the Mexican playmaker couldn’t properly connect with his shot and he was unable to test Gauci.

Clayton Lewis also had a good chance to beat the Adelaide ‘keeper in the 74th minute after a neat pass from Piscopo, but Gauci was again up to the task at his near post.

While Adelaide finished strongly, Sail was largely untroubled in goal until he had to pick the ball out of his own net in second-half stoppage time, when Oliveira headed home an enticing cross at the back post.

The Phoenix remain seventh on the Isuzu UTE A-League ladder, but are now just a point behind Adelaide, Victory and Macarthur.

The Wellington Phoenix continue the ‘February Football Frenzy’ on Wednesday when they play host to Brisbane Roar at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney.

Wellington Phoenix: 
20. Oli SAIL (gk), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Gael SANDOVAL (8. Ben OLD 65th), 9. David BALL (88. Gary HOOPER 78th), 10. Reno PISCOPO (16. Louis FENTON 78th), 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO (43. Oskar VAN HATTUM 59th), 14. Alex RUFER (c), 19. Sam SUTTON, 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 18. Ben WAINE

Adelaide United: 46. Joe GAUCI (gk), 7. Ryan KITTO (27. Joshua CAVALLO 59th), 8. Stefan MAUK (c) (20. Zach CLOUGH 78th), 10. ISAIAS, 11. Craig GOODWIN, 15. Hiroshi IBUSUKI, 21. Javier LOPEZ (17. Mohamed TOURE 89th), 22. Michael JAKOBSEN, 25. Lachlan BARR, 28. JUANDE (6. Louis D’ARRIGO 59th), 77. Lachlan BROOK (31. Bernardo OLIVEIRA 46th)
Unused substitutes: 50. Steven HALL (gk), 23. Jacob TRATT

7. Gael SANDOVAL (Wellington Phoenix) – 20th
31. Bernardo OLIVEIRA (Adelaide United) – 90+2

22. Michael JAKOBSEN (Adelaide United) – yellow – 23rd
20. Oli SAIL (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 90th