Men’s Match Review: Wellington Phoenix vs. Perth Glory

The Wellington Phoenix have further entrenched themselves in the top six of the Isuzu UTE A-League before their long-awaited return home.

The Phoenix have beaten bottom of the table Perth Glory 1-0 at a rain-sodden Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney, to rise to fifth on the ladder.

Gael Sandoval broke the deadlock early in the second half, scoring his second goal in as many matches and fifth of the season.

The Nix are now four points clear of seventh-placed Macarthur FC and just a point behind fourth-placed Adelaide United, who have played two more matches.

“The three points is massive for us moving forward to the back end of the season,” Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay told media after the team’s sixth match in 19 days.

“We’ve played a lot of games back-to-back. It wasn’t a complete performance, but I think it was a good enough performance to get the job done and get the three points.

“I think we’ve put ourselves in a great position going back to New Zealand.

“Having the fans there supporting the group I think the boys that are injured will probably even put their hands up to play.”

Unfortunately versatile defender Sam Sutton won’t be travelling to Wellington on Friday after he tested positive to COVID-19 on Wednesday morning.

“It’s gut-wrenching for Sutts to not be able to come back with the team, enjoy being back home and be able to play in front of our own fans,” Talay said.

“He’ll fly out on Thursday next week and come over straight to Auckland to join the group.”

James McGarry, who himself only came out of isolation on Tuesday, started at left-wing back in Sutton’s absence in the only change to the XI which started the 4-1 win over Western United on Saturday.

The Phoenix dictated terms in the first half, but struggled to break down the disciplined, young Glory side.

With just two shots at goal in the opening quarter of an hour, despite having 70% of the ball, Talay made a tactical change. Left-sided centre back Tim Payne pushed into midfield, with Sandoval moving into a more advanced role.

The switch almost paid immediate dividends with the Mexican midfielder testing veteran Perth ‘keeper Liam Reddy in the 17th minute. Reddy managed to parry Sandoval’s long-range effort away for a corner.

At the other end of the pitch Nix captain Oli Sail was only called into action once in the first 45 minutes, gathering in a heavy touch from Glory forward Joshua Anasmo.

Reno Piscopo and McGarry were both busy down the left hand flank for the Phoenix and had shots at goal, but it took until the first minute of first-half stoppage time for Wellington to force Reddy to make his second save. Jaushua Sotirio volleyed on the turn from a Sandoval free-kick, but Perth’s ‘keeper was able to comfortably hold on to the shot.

The Phoenix looked to up the tempo in the second-half and took less than three minutes to open the scoring when Sandoval’s deflected shot from just inside the box found its way into the back of Perth’s net.

The goal encouraged the Glory to be more positive and they registered their first shot of the match almost straight from the kick-off when Anasmo let fly from long range but was unable to beat Sail.

The game became more end to end and both sides had opportunities in the 50th minute when Perth substitute Jayden Gorman and Sotirio shot wide of goal.

The Nix had a great chance eight minutes later when Jaushua Sotirio pounced on a mistake from Perth defender Darryl Lachman. But Sotirio wasn’t able to link up with David Ball, who was free in the box.

Ball and Piscopo were substituted shortly after with an eye to Sunday’s long-awaited homecoming match against the Central Coast Mariners.

The Glory came closest to finding an equaliser midway through the second-half when fullback Antonee Burke-Gilroy fizzed a shot narrowly over the bar.

Perth rallied but were unable to test Sail and the Phoenix closed out the match to claim all three points.

The Wellington Phoenix can now turn their attentions to their first match in New Zealand in more than 300 days. The Phoenix will host the Central Coast Mariners at Sky Stadium in Wellington on Easter Sunday.

Wellington Phoenix: 20. Oli SAIL (gk) (c), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. James MCGARRY, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Gael SANDOVAL, 9. David BALL (18. Ben WAINE 62nd), 10. Reno PISCOPO (8. Ben OLD 62nd), 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO (36. Riley BIDOIS 90+5), 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 17. Callan ELLIOT (16. Louis FENTON 80th), 33. Finn SURMAN
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Matthew BOZINOVSKI, 34. Jackson MANUEL

Perth Glory: 33. Liam REDDY (gk) (c), 14. Jack CLISBY (22. Joshua RAWLINS 56th) 21. Antonee BURKE-GILROY (47. Tyler VECCHIO 71st), 23. Mitchell OXBORROW (19. Callum TIMMINS 71st), 26. Giordano COLLI, 28. Trent OSTLER (88. Jayden GORMAN 35th), 29. Darryl LACHMAN, 32. Aidan COYNE, 37. Jacob MUIR, 41. Chris DONNELL, 42. Joshua ANASMO (24. Pacifique NIYONGABIRE 71st)
Unused substitutes: 12. Cameron COOK (gk), 18. Daniel STYNES

7. Gael SANDOVAL (Wellington Phoenix) – 48th

14. Jack CLISBY (Perth Glory) – yellow – 56th
13. Nicholas PENNINGTON (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 58th