Men’s Match Review: Wellington Phoenix vs. Melbourne Victory

The Wellington Phoenix have knocked over the newly crowned FFA Cup champions to claim their third straight win of the Isuzu UTE A-League season.

The Phoenix have beaten Melbourne Victory 1-0 at WIN Stadium in Wollongong, after a scoreless first-half.

Wellington playmaker Reno Piscopo scored the only goal of the game 16 minutes from fulltime to move the Nix just a point adrift of the top six.

“I think we’re heading in the right direction,” Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay told media post-game.

“Some good performances, Macarthur and this one. I thought we played very well with the ball and defended solidly as well.

“I think we had close to 57% possession and over 600 passes this game.

“It was an arm-wrestle. Two teams that when they got behind the ball were very defensive and I thought one goal was going to win this game and I’m glad we scored that one goal.”

It was Wellington’s first clean sheet of the A-League season and came in Scott Wootton’s debut.

The introduction of the experienced English defender was the one change Talay made to the XI which started against Macarthur on Sunday, with Wootton making his long-awaited first appearance for the Phoenix in place of Finn Surman at right centre back.

“Look he did the simple things right and that’s all we needed him to do as a defender, to win the balls and find a team-mate in the same coloured jersey,” Talay said.

“We weren’t expecting him to play 90 minutes but because we had a lot of the ball I thought he didn’t have to do a lot of tracking and a lot of running towards his own goal which was good.”

The Phoenix started brightly and had the first opportunity of the match in the sixth minute when the lively Piscopo shot wide from distance.

It was to become a theme of the first-half for both sides, with a number of long-range attempts on goal, but few in either box.

Wellington goalkeeper Oli Sail was called into action for the first time in the 10th minute, punching strongly to clear the danger from a corner.

Sail had to make one more telling intervention before halftime in the 25th minute, when he did well to deal with an awkward deflected shot at his near post.

Moments later David Ball created an opportunity for himself but was unable to test Ivan Kelava in the Victory goal and had to settle for a corner.

Ball had arguably the Phoenix’s best chance of the first half from a corner, when he flicked a near-post header narrowly over Kelava’s goal 12 minutes from halftime.

However neither side was able to create a clear-cut chance and went to the break scoreless.

The Victory dominated possession at the start of the second-half, but the Phoenix almost caught the visitors on the break in the 48th minute, when Tim Payne made a lung-busting run down the right flank. However Payne’s shot didn’t trouble Kelava.

Sail produced a hat-trick of saves midway through the half.

He tipped a dangerous shot from Ben Folami around his left-hand post, snuffed out an opportunity for Victory captain Josh Brilliante at his near post and managed to deny Marco Rojas from close-range in his 100th game for the club.

The Phoenix got the breakthrough they were after in the 74th minute when Ball pounced on loose ball, drew in a couple of Victory defenders and Kelava before finding Piscopo, who buried the ball into the back of the net.

Jaushua Sotirio had an opportunity to seal the win nine minutes from fulltime when he found some space in the Victory box, but Sotirio wasn’t able to curl his shot into the top corner of the visitors’ goal.

Wellington closed out the match well with Victory unable to test Sail for the final quarter of an hour. Two wayward shots from Nicholas D’Agostino were all they had to show for their endeavours.

The Wellington Phoenix will go in search of their third win in a week on Saturday when they play Adelaide United at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney.

Adelaide sit just a point above the Phoenix on the A-League ladder.

Wellington Phoenix: 
20. Oli SAIL (gk), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 6. Tim PAYNE (16. Louis FENTON 70th), 7. Gael SANDOVAL (8. Ben OLD 82nd), 9. David BALL, 10. Reno PISCOPO (18. Ben WAINE 90th), 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO (43. Oskar VAN HATTUM 90th), 14. Alex RUFER (c) (13. Nicholas PENNINGTON 90th), 19. Sam SUTTON, 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 33. Finn SURMAN

Melbourne Victory: 20. Ivan KELAVA (gk), 2. Jason GERIA, 3. Jason DAVIDSON, 6. Leigh BROXHAM, 7. Christopher IKONOMIDIS (26. Lleyton BROOKS 78th), 8. Joshua BRILLANTE (c), 9. Francesca MARGIOTTA (18. Nicholas D’AGOSTINO 72nd), 11. Ben FOLAMI (22. Jake BRIMMER 72nd), 13. Birkan KIRDAR, 17. Brendan HAMILL, 24. Nishan VELUPILLAY (23. Marco ROJAS 62nd)
Unused substitutes: 1. Matthew ACTON (gk), 15. Aaron ANDERSON, 16. Stefan NIGRO

10. Reno PISCOPO (Wellington Phoenix) – 74th

9. David BALL (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 57th
16. Louis FENTON (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 76th
10. Reno PISCOPO (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 90th