Men’s Match Review: Wellington Phoenix vs. Sydney FC

The Wellington Phoenix have produced a courageous showing in their fifth Isuzu UTE A-League match in 14 days to extend their unbeaten run to six games.

The Phoenix have drawn 1-1 with Sydney FC at Leichhardt Oval in Sydney, with goalkeeper Oli Sail producing a string a second-half saves to ensure Wellington secured a point in captain Alex Rufer’s 100th A-League match.

Hard-working forward David Ball scored his first goal of the season to give the Nix a 1-0 halftime lead.

Sydney substitute Bobo equalised midway through the second-half and Sail had to be at his best to keep out a number of shots from the Brazilian in the final 20 minutes of the match.

Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay was happy to take a point out of the match considering the testing schedule his team has had.

“Obviously this is our fifth game in 14 days so I think the boys put in a very good shift and look 1-1 is a fair result at the end of the day,” Talay told media post-match

“Oli made some spectacular saves today to keep us in the game and maybe we could have even won it in the last minute with Gael (Sandoval) in that transition moment.”

Talay is welcoming the full week the team has to prepare for their next match against Western Sydney Wanderers on Sunday week.

“We’ll give the boys a couple of days off to refresh their minds and their bodies and then we’ll come back in and we’ve got a very important game on the weekend against Western Sydney.

“These next couple of days are very important for the boys to relax.”

Ufuk Talay named the same XI which started Wellington’s past three matches, with the identical bench to their last two.

After a cagey opening 10 minutes the match came alive.

The first opportunity fell to the Phoenix on the break in the 12th minute, but Jaushua Sotirio dragged his shot wide of Andrew Redmayne’s goal.

Sail was called into action for the first time in the 17th minute when he had to show decisiveness to claim a threatening Sydney cross.

Shortly after the Wellington gloveman was needed a couple of times to deny Sky Blues midfielder Mustafa Amini. Sail parried away an awkward long-range shot from Amini and then showed sublime reflexes to stop the former Socceroo from inside the box.

Ball came close to opening the scoring for the Phoenix in the 24th minute when he curled a shot narrowly wide of the top left-hand corner of Redmayne’s goal.

Former Nix midfielder Max Burgess came even closer for Sydney moments later when he rattled Sail’s left-hand post with a thunderous shot that to Wellington’s relief rebounded into the field of play.

Both sides came up with big defensive plays to keep the game scoreless. Sydney FC captain Alex Wilkinson managed to produce a key block to prevent a dangerous-looking opportunity for Phoenix playmaker Reno Piscopo in the 33rd minute and a handful of minutes late Nix left back Sam Sutton produced a wonderful goal-line clearance to deny two-time Johnny Warren medallist Milos Ninkovic.

Ball found the breakthrough for Wellington a couple of minutes out from halftime when he managed to turn inside the Sydney area and shoot past Redmayne.

The Sky Blues were perhaps a little fortunate to not be a man down at halftime too after Sydney forward Elvis Kamsoba kicked out at Phoenix defender Josh Laws. Kamsoba was only shown a yellow card and the Video Assistant Referee deemed the punishment sufficient.

Sydney FC looked the more dangerous side at the start of the second-half, although the Phoenix were threatening on the counter.

Wellington had a let off in the 51st minute when Sydney midfielder Anthony Caceres shot wide after some good interplay with Ninkovic in the Nix box.

Bobo fired a warning shot just wide of Sail’s left-hand post in the 63rd minute moments after replacing Adam Le Fondre.

Shortly after he drew the Sky Blues level when he expertly steered a Rhyan Grant cross into the far corner of the Phoenix goal.

The Brazilian was Sydney’s most threatening player and forced two superb saves from Sail in the 71st and 77th minutes. Sail parried away a Bobo header that looks destined for the bottom left-hand corner of the Wellington goal and then was at full-stretch to stop another header that this time was directed at the top right-hand corner.

Both sides had opportunities to win the match in second-half stoppage time. Sail expertly tipped another shot from Bobo around his left-hand post in the 92nd minute and Sandoval narrowly missed the target as the Phoenix broke forward in the final seconds of the game.

The Phoenix and Sydney FC are now level on points with third-placed Adelaide United, although the Nix have played one game fewer.

Wellington Phoenix: 
20. Oli SAIL (gk), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Gael SANDOVAL, 9. David BALL (88. Gary HOOPER 90+1), 10. Reno PISCOPO (8. Ben OLD 75th), 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO (18. Ben WAINE 61st), 14. Alex RUFER (c), 19. Sam SUTTON, 21. Joshua LAWS (16. Louis FENTON 61st), 23. Clayton LEWIS
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM

Sydney FC: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 2, James DONACHIE, 4. Alex WILKINSON (c), 5. Connor O’TOOLE, 6. Mustafa AMINI (21. Harry VAN DER SAAG 75th), 10. Milos NINKOVIC (11. Kosta BARBAROUSES 75th), 14. Adam LE FONDRE (9. BOBO 60th), 17. Anthony CACERES, 22. Max BURGESS, 23. Rhyan GRANT, 27. Elvis KAMSOBA
Unused substitutes: 20. Thomas HEWARD-BELLE (gk), 3. Benjamin WARLAND, 25. Callum TALBOT, 33. Patrick WOOD

9. David BALL (Wellington Phoenix) – 43rd
9. BOBO (Sydney FC) – 67th

7. Gael SANDOVAL (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 40th
21. Joshua LAWS (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 45+127. Elvis KAMSOBA (Sydney FC) – yellow – 45+1
6. Mustafa AMINI (Sydney FC) – yellow – 74th
17. Anthony CACERES (Sydney FC) – yellow – 78th