Men’s Match Review: Wellington Phoenix vs. Western Sydney Wanderers

The Wellington Phoenix’s 13-match unbeaten run in the Isuzu UTE A-League men’s competition has come to an end in controversial fashion.

The Western Sydney Wanderers have beaten the Phoenix 2-0 at WIN Stadium in Wollongong, scoring two second-half goals after Wellington had looked the more likely of the two sides.

Former Phoenix forward Tomer Hemed broke the deadlock in the 67th minute after he got away with pushing Callan Elliot in the back. The Video Assistant Referee checked to see if Hemed’s shot had crossed the line before James McGarry was able to clear the ball, but didn’t pick up the foul on Elliot.

Defender John Koutroumbis rubbed salt into the wound by scoring Western Sydney’s second deep into second-half stoppage time when Wellington were pressing for an equaliser.

Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay says it’s a tough result to take.

“In my opinion a poor decision in refereeing, a foul on Callan Elliot inside the box, led to the [first] goal,” Talay told media post-match.

“It’s disappointing because I thought we were the better team overall for 90 minutes.

“I think they were probably looking at if it crossed the line and they were probably looking at if it was offside so in my opinion they may have missed a push on Cal Elliot.”

He says they will consider making a complaint to league bosses.

“That’s a decision and a conversation that we need to have with the club and the board.

“There are mistakes within the game, players make a thousand mistakes within the game but I think in my opinion the officials can’t get it wrong [with VAR].”

Ufuk Talay made one unforced change to his starting XI, with academy product Ben Old named to make his first start for the Phoenix in place of the injured Jaushua Sotirio, who rolled his ankle last week.

Old started in one of the twin playmaker roles, with David Ball moving up front alongside fellow Englishman Gary Hooper.

The Nix had the ball in the back of the net after half an hour, with defender Josh Laws capitalising on a mistake from Wanderers ‘keeper Tomas Mejias, but VAR ruled it out for offside.

Reno Piscopo had a couple of good opportunities at the end of the first-half, forcing a save from Mejias with one shot before narrowly missing the target with his second.

Wellington continued to look the better side after the break and in the 61st minute McGarry produced a fine volley that required another top save from Western Sydney’s ‘keeper.

Hemed’s controversial goal six minutes later turned the game on its head and the Wanderers for the most part controlled proceedings over the remainder of the match.

The Phoenix though continued to press for an equaliser and vice-captain Oli Sail came up for a corner in stoppage time. Unfortunately for Wellington, the Wanderers were able to break from the set piece and Koutroumbis was able to run away into an open net.

“Look I never want to concede goals whether it’s one, two or three,” Talay said.

“But at the end of the day it was the dying seconds of the game, we pushed everyone forward to try to equalise and it’s one of those ones where they break and they score so whether it’s one-nil or two-nil it doesn’t bother me.”

Wellington Phoenix: 
20. Oli SAIL (gk), 5. James MCGARRY, 6. Tim PAYNE, 8. Ben OLD, 9. David BALL, 10. Reno PISCOPO, 14. Alex RUFER (c), 17. Callan ELLIOT, 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS (18. Ben WAINE 81st min), 88. Gary HOOPER.
Unused substitutes: 3. Matthew BOZINOVSKI, 12. Luka PRSO, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 16. Louis FENTON, 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 43. Oskar VAN HATTUM

Western Sydney Wanderers: 20. Tomas MEJIAS (gk), 3. Adama TRAORE, 4. Rhys WILLIAMS, 5. Jack RODWELL (6. Tass MOURDOUKOUTAS 83rd min), 8. Steven UGARKOVIC, 9. Bernie IBINI-ISEI (23. Dimitrios PETRATOS 74th min), 10. Tomer HEMED (13. Tate RUSSELL 90+4 mins), 11. Keijiro OGAWA (7. Ramy NAJJARINE 74th min), 22. John KOUTROUMBIS, 29. Terry ANTONIS, 39. Thomas AQUILINA
Unused substitutes: 1. Daniel MARGUSH (gk), 2. Ziggy GORDON, 33. Mark NATTA

Tomer HEMED (Western Sydney Wanderers) – 67th min
John KOUTROUMBIS (Western Sydney Wanderers) – 90+3 mins

Thomas AQUILINA (Western Sydney Wanderers) – yellow – 17th min
Adama TRAORE (Western Sydney Wanderers) – yellow – 64th min
Gary HOOPER (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 68th min
Alex RUFER (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 76th min
David Ball (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 86th min