The Wellington Phoenix play their first ever game in Tasmania tonight, taking on foes Western United in a re-match of their thrilling Match Week 16 contest – in a must-win match for the Nix.
This is the Phoenix’s second match of three within a hectic seven-day schedule, which also sees the squad travel to Perth to face the Glory, then Launceston before returning to Wollongong for Sunday’s clash against Adelaide United.
With only 18 players available for that Perth match – which the Nix won 3-1, with all three of their goals coming in a torrid second half – the team is buoyed by the return of two players in Tomer Hemed and Liam McGing for tonight’s match.
Hemed returns after missing the last two matches due to injury, giving Coach Talay a headache as to who will start on the frontline with Ben Waine and Jaushua Sotirio starting the previous two matches – both wins and with both strikers scoring against Perth.
The first of those wins – a 3-2 victory against Western United – saw the Phoenix win thanks to a Waine header in the final minutes; the 19-year-old scoring goals in back-to-back games for the first time in his A-League career.
But it will be Ulises Davila that Western United will have their eyes on as Wellington’s most dangerous attacker. After a solid campaign last season, Davila has firmly established himself as a true A-League superstar this year, ranking third in the competition in Goals + Assists combined (7 and 4) behind only Matt Derbyshire and Jamie Maclaren.
And despite early fears that Davila would have to shoulder the scoring burden for the Phoenix this year, he is one of four Nix players to register four or more goals – joining Hemed, Waine and David Ball – a feat no other club has accomplished to date this season.
Meanwhile Western United come into this match off the back of a 1-0 win against Central Coast Mariners in the previous round, with Connor Pain scoring in the fifth minute and Western United sticking out the win – along with their fifth clean sheet of the season.
After falling to the Phoenix in Match Week 16, Western United will see the return of two players missing from that match in Alessandro Diamanti and Lachlan Wales.
Wales had scored two goals in his last two matches before that injury, establishing himself as a secondary scoring option behind Besart Berisha and Dylan Pierias, so his return will provide a boost to Western United’s 7th-ranked offense (23 goals in 15 matches).
The match will also see Western United celebrate the 350th match for Andrew Durante, the first player to reach this mark. It is also fitting that he achieves this mark against his former team, for whom he played 273 of these matches with.
This match has major implications for the Phoenix’s hopes of achieving a top-six finish this season; beating Western United tonight would leapfrog them over this team and Brisbane Roar into seventh place – only one point behind the slumping Western Sydney Wanderers in sixth.
The Wellington Phoenix take on Western United at UTAS Stadium in Launceston, Tasmania tonight at 7.05pm AEDT (9.05pm NZT).
Did you know?
- Going for Four: Wellington Phoenix have won their last three A-League games on the bounce against Western United, after losing their inaugural encounter 3-1 in October 2019.
- He who Scores First: The Wellington Phoenix have won eight of their nine matches when they have scored first (5W, 3D), but have only won one game this season – in eight matches – when conceding first.
- Davila from Distance: Ulises Davila has logged nine shots on target from outside the box this season (making four), the joint most attempts of any player in the competition alongside Sydney FC’s Luke Brattan.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12.Matthew RIDENTON, 13.Charles LOKOLI-NGOY, 14.Alex RUFER, 15.Mirza MURATOVIC, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Tomer HEMED, 18.Ben WAINE, 19.Sam SUTTON, 20.Oliver SAIL, 21.Joshua LAWS, 23.Clayton LEWIS, 27.Steven TAYLOR
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Liam McGING (return from injury), 17.Tomer HEMED (return from injury)
Unavailable: 3.Luke DEVERE (knee injury – 4 weeks), 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI (Achilles injury – 1 week), 7.Reno PISCOPO (injury – 2 weeks)
Western United FC squad: 1.Filip KURTO (gk), 2.Aaron CALVER, 3.Brendan HAMILL, 4 Andrew DURANTE, 5.Dylan PIERIAS, 6.Tomoki IMAI, 7.Besart BERISHA, 8. Lachlan WALES 10.Steven LUSTICA, 11.Connor PAIN, 12. Dalibor MARKOVIC, 17.Bradden INMAN, 19. Joshua RISDON, 20.Víctor SÁNCHEZ, 21. Sebastian PASQUALI, 22.Tomislav USKOK 23.Alessandro DIAMANTI (c), 25.Luke DUZEL, 30.Ryan SCOTT (gk), 34.Iker GUARROTXENA
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 8. Lachlan WALES (Return from Injury), 21. Sebastian PASQUALI (promoted)