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

Nicholas Pennington has ensured the Wellington Phoenix have returned to winning ways in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

The young midfielder has scored with virtually the last kick of the game to secure the Phoenix a precious 2-1 win over Perth Glory at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney.

The three points, after back-to-back defeats, lift the Nix back level with sixth-placed Sydney FC, but with three games in hand.

Ben Waine gave Wellington a deserved 1-0 halftime lead, before Nicholas Fitzgerald drew the Glory level early in the second-half.

Despite being reduced to 10 men moments later, Perth kept the Phoenix out until the 97th minute, when Pennington volleyed home from a corner.

“The win was fantastic for the boys. They showed a lot of guts, especially to the end,” Phoenix assistant coach Giancarlo Italiano told media post-game.

“It was a great relief for the boys and I was really happy for them because I thought they deserved the three points.”

The win though has come at a major cost with All Whites midfielder Clayton Lewis suffering a sickening ankle injury midway through the second-half.

“Very disappointing. He’s going to hospital now to get a scan and see what the outcome is,”

“It’s a significant blow because Clay has been fantastic all year, as well as [Alex] Rufer.”

Italiano took charge of the Phoenix in the absence of head coach Ufuk Talay, who tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday.

“My objective was to get Uffie three points for his birthday so I’m hoping that he enjoyed that as much as we did.”

He fielded an XI featuring six changes from the side which started last week’s defeat to Newcastle Jets. Oli Sail, Lewis, Waine and Ben Old came straight back into the side, after representing the All Whites in Qatar, David Ball returned from suspension and young centre back Finn Surman was promoted from the bench. Sail wore the captain’s armband.

After a chance-less opening 10 minutes, the Phoenix took control of the match, dominating possession and camping themselves inside Perth’s half.

Despite their dominance, goalscoring opportunities were at a premium. Pennington and Gael Sandoval both directed headers over the Glory goal shortly after the quarter hour mark and Sandoval volleyed a shot narrowly wide of Liam Reddy’s right-hand post in the 20th minute.

Ball managed the first shot on target five minutes later, shooting straight at Reddy after winning possession on the edge of the Perth box.

Waine gave the Nix the lead eight minutes from halftime, volleying a clever ball from Sandoval over the Perth ‘keeper and into the Glory’s goal.

Sail was untested in the first half with the Phoenix having two thirds of possession and six shots to Perth’s two.

The Glory equalised from their first shot on goal four minutes into the second-half, with Fitzgerald steering a shot past Sail.

Perth were reduced to 10 men three minutes later, when Osama Malik was red carded for fouling Waine, who was attempting to get on the end of a defence-splitting pass from Surman.

The Phoenix struggled to break the Glory down despite their numerical superiority and the task became tougher midway through the second-half when Lewis had to be stretchered off the pitch.

Sam Sutton moved into the heart of midfield in Lewis’ absence and he came close to breaking Perth’s resistance in the 83rd minute. Sutton’s shot from the edge of the area was only denied by Reddy’s fingertips and the woodwork.  

It was the first time the Perth ‘keeper had been seriously tested in the second-half with Sandoval striking a powerful volley straight into his arms six minutes earlier.

Reddy also comfortably held shots from the Mexican midfielder and Ball in second-half stoppage time.

But he was unable to stop Pennington’s effort when he volleyed into the bottom right corner of the Glory goal from a last minute Nix corner.

The Wellington Phoenix are back in action on Wednesday night against the Brisbane Roar at Moreton Daily Stadium in Redcliffe.

Wellington Phoenix:
20. Oli SAIL (gk) (c), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 7. Gael SANDOVAL (17. Callan ELLIOT 90+9), 8. Ben OLD (32. George OTT 88th), 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 16. Louis FENTON, 18. Ben WAINE, 19. Sam SUTTON, 21. Josh LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS (5. James MCGARRY 70th), 33. Finn SURMAN
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Matthew BOZINOVSKI, 31. Kurtis MOGG, 34. Jackson MANUEL

Perth Glory: 33. Liam REDDY (gk), 5. Jonathan ASPROPOTAMITIS, 6. Osama MALIK, 7. Adrian SARDINERO (22. Joshua RAWLINS 79th), 10. Andy KEOGH (c) (43. Adam ZIMARINO 57th), 11. Nicholas FITZGERALD (24. Pacifique NIYONGABIRE 86th), 14. Jack CLISBY, 19. Callum TIMMINS, 21. Antonee BURKE-GILROY, 29. Darryl LACHMAN, 42. Joshua ANASMO (26. Giordano COLLI 57th)
Unused substitutes: 12. Cameron COOK (gk), 18. Daniel STYNES, 28. Trent OSTLER

18. Ben WAINE (Wellington Phoenix) – 37th
11. Nicholas FITZGERALD (Perth Glory) – 49th
13. Nicholas PENNINGTON (Wellington Phoenix) 90+7

6. Osama MALIK (Perth Glory) – yellow – 47th
6. Osama MALIK (Perth Glory) – red – 52nd
19. Callum TIMMINS (Perth Glory) – yellow – 64th
16. Louis FENTON (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 89th