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

A stirring second-half comeback has come up just short, with the Wellington Phoenix falling to their third straight defeat in the Isuzu UTE A-League men’s competition.

Sydney FC have hung on to beat the Phoenix 2-1 at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney, after leading 1-0 at halftime and 2-0 early in the second-half.

Ben Waine pulled a goal back for Wellington in the 83rd minute and despite throwing everything they could at Sydney’s goal in search of an equaliser they were unable to beat Sydney ‘keeper Andrew Redmayne a second time.

The Phoenix finished the match with six of the club’s academy graduates on the pitch, with goalkeeper Alex Paulsen and forward Oskar van Hattum making their A-League debuts.

Paulsen looked assured in goal, while van Hattum and fellow academy graduate Ben Old played key roles in the team’s second-half revival.

Head coach Ufuk Talay is disappointed with how his side lost.

“I think we gave Sydney two goals tonight,” Talay told media post-match. “I think we could have dealt with the first one a lot better and even the transition one in the second-half I think we could have dealt with that a lot better as well.

“It becomes an uphill climb against Sydney when you’re 2-nil down.

“I think our first-half performance was not up to standard, but second-half was a lot better. Second-half is the team that I know, that can play. We need to do that for the full 90 minutes, not for 45 and I think the results will start to come.

“The substitutions made an influence on the game. The young boys coming on gave us some energy and we created a few opportunities to get in behind them but didn’t capitalise on it.”

Talay made just one change to the XI which started the FFA Cup tie against Avondale FC on Tuesday night, with Clayton Lewis replacing Nicholas Pennington in the heart of midfield.

He was forced to make a change in goal midway less than half an hour into the match with vice-captain Oli Sail limping off with a hip flexor injury and replaced by 19-year-old Paulsen.

“AP was very good. That’s why he’s here. These opportunities come through either suspension or injuries, and I think he took his chance very well.”

Sydney scored their first when Sail was still in goal, with Elvis Kamsoba smashing it past the Wellington ‘keeper from six yards out in the 19th minute.

Paulsen was called into action shortly after his arrival. He made a great save at his near post to deny Kamsoba his second and also pushed away a dangerous shot from distance.

A long distance effort from Jaushua Sotirio was all Wellington had to show for their first-half endeavours.

The Phoenix made a bright start to the second-half, but it was Sydney who would score next, against the run of play.

Adam Le Fondre blasted a shot past Paulsen in the 57th minute after Anthony Caceres had driven into the Wellington box.

Van Hattum made an almost immediate impact when he entered the game 15 minutes from fulltime. He made a great run from halfway and found Waine, who bended a left-footed shot just wide of Sydney’s goal.

Waine had another opportunity moments later, forcing a good save from Redmayne with a strong header.

He finally got the breakthrough in the 83rd minute, when he controlled a miss-hit shot from Old, turned and squeezed the ball past the Sydney ‘keeper. The goal was initially ruled out for offside before VAR intervened.

The Phoenix had a couple more goalscoring opportunities in second-half stoppage time but Old and Reno Piscopo weren’t able to put the finishing touches on promising attacks and Sydney FC held on for their first win of the season.

The Wellington Phoenix will be back in action on Wednesday night, when they play Melbourne City in the quarter-finals of the FFC Cup before playing the Central Coast Mariners in round six of the Isuzu UTE A-League the following Monday.

Wellington Phoenix: 
20. Oli SAIL (gk) (40. Alex PAULSEN (gk) 27th min), 6. Tim PAYNE, 9. David BALL (43. Oskar VAN HATTUM 76th min), 10. Reno PISCOPO, 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO (8. Ben OLD 66th min), 14. Alex RUFER (c) (13. Nicholas PENNINGTON 66th min), 16. Louis FENTON (17. Callan ELLIOT 46th min), 18. Ben WAINE, 19. Sam SUTTON, 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS
Unused substitutes: 3. Matthew BOZINOVSKI, 12. Luka PRSO

Sydney FC: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 2, James DONACHIE, 4. Alex WILKINSON (c), 8. Paulo RETRE, 14. Adam LE FONDRE (9. Deyvison DA SILVA 65th min), 16. Joel KING, 17. Anthony CACERES, 21. Harry VAN DER SAAG (23. Rhyan GRANT 65th min), 22. Max BURGESS (10. Milos NINKOVIC 65th min), 27. Elvis KAMSOBA (12. Trent BUHAGIAR 81st min), 32. Patrick YAZBEK (28. Calem NIEUWENHOF 77th min)
Unused substitutes: 20. Thomas HEWARD-BELLE (gk), 3. Benjamin WARLAND

27. Elvis KAMSOBA (Sydney FC) – 19th min
14. Adam LE FONDRE (Sydney FC) – 57th min
18. Ben WAINE (Wellington Phoenix) – 83rd min

8. Paulo RETRE (Sydney FC) – yellow – 61st min