Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has refused to be drawn into a war of words over the playing surface after watching his side beat Melbourne Victory 2-0 at North Harbour Stadium.
Victory coach Kevin Muscat slammed the pitch afterwards, labelling it “substandard” and suggesting the game shouldn’t have gone ahead.
But if Merrick shared his former skipper’s view, he certainly wasn’t showing it.
“The pitch was fine, said Merrick.
“The ball rolled fairly well. It wasn’t bumpy really. There wasn’t enough grass on it, but it was fine. You have to adapt to different situations.”
“I think the referee would have ruled the pitch unplayable if it wasn’t safe. Obviously without great grass cover the ball didn’t run true occasionally but I didn’t feel it was unsafe. We were happy to play on it,” he said.
Merrick preferred instead to focus on a solid performance from his side which saw the Phoenix beat Victory for just the fifth time in 26 A-League meetings.
“The boys played well. We wanted to make sure we shut down their wide players Ben Khalfallah and Barbarouses and we did that. Glen (Moss), Manny (Muscat) and Dura (Andrew Durante) were terrific in the middle. Glen was just outstanding in his hundredth game for the club. Our midfield was rock solid, especially in the first half.”
“In the second half, (Victory) weren’t as conscientious in defence and they pushed players forward so we had to defend and play a counter-attacking game and we nearly caught them out twice. It was virtually two different styles of play and we coped both times quite well,” said Merrick.
And the Phoenix mentor reserved special praise for Fijian flier Roy Krishna, who scored the first goal from an acute angle before creating the second for Roly Bonevacia.
“I think we had a lot of good players but Roy was deadly. He was on fire. He seems to get better and better. He scored one and set one up.
“He was unlucky in the end with a couple of offside calls but I thought he was outstanding. He really enjoyed himself,” said Merrick.
The Phoenix next travel to Cairns to take on Brisbane Roar next Saturday.