The Wellington Phoenix face Adelaide United tonight for the second time in a fortnight – with the Nix coming away with a 2-1 victory at WIN Stadium on ANZAC Day back in MW18.
That game saw youngster Ben Waine score his sixth goal of the season, and Tomer Hemed convert a late penalty to secure an important win; keeping the Phoenix’s top six hopes firmly alive in the process.
Wellington followed up this win with a nil-all draw against Brisbane Roar last Saturday in soaking conditions, preserving their five-match unbeaten streak and giving the side added momentum as it prepares for the final six matches of the regular season.
Reno Piscopo’s against Brisbane – albeit on a minutes restriction – served as a shot in the arm for the Phoenix in the second half, with his energy and playmaking on the ball a great compliment to Ulises Davila’s tireless work on attack; Davila’s effort rewarded with a place in the A-League Team of the Week, his third such appearance in a month.
But the Nix will face the Reds without both Cameron Devlin and Louis Fenton for this re-match; both players picking up their fifth yellow cards against Brisbane. Coach Ufuk Talay has already hinted that Tim Payne may slide over to his familiar position at right back to cover Fenton’s absence, with Alex Rufer the likely candidate to replace Devlin in the midfield.
Coach Talay says that Payne’s versatility has been beneficial to the squad this season.
“Tim has been playing a different role this year for us and I think he’s done a pretty good job; it’s important in the A-League to have players [like Tim] who can play multiple positions,” said Talay.
For Adelaide United this is a high stakes match tonight, with a win potentially catapulting them up the ladder; they currently sit in fifth place with the three teams above them separated by a single point – so three points could vault them into second place.
But a loss could also be threaten Adelaide’s top six position. Like Wellington, the Reds also earned a nil-all draw in the previous round, Adelaide having picked up three draws in their past five matches with an in-form Brisbane Roar nipping at their heels behind them.
Stefan Mauk is the heart and soul of this Adelaide side, the captain having scored his seventh goal of the season against the Nix in MW18. He’ll be supported by striker Tomi Juric (seven goals, with six of these coming from set pieces to join-lead the A-League in this category) and Craig Goodwin (five goals, five assists).
Coach Talay says he has a lot of respect for Adelaide United, and knows how important a win for the Nix is tonight.
“They’re a very good side, they have some very good attacking players – I thought we controlled the game well defensively, even when we didn’t have the ball, we created opportunities especially in the first half,” said Talay.
“For us, we look at every game as a Grand Final now, we need three points – we won’t be going there to settle for a draw, we’ve got the mindset of winning this game and getting three points.”
The Wellington Phoenix take on Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium in Adelaide tonight at 7.05pm ACDT (9.35pm NZT).
Did you know?
- Waine Train on Target: Wellington Phoenix’s Ben Waine has a shot conversion rate of 46% from his 13 shots tis A-League season, the highest of any player in the competition to have made at least five shots.
- Nix In Form: Wellington Phoenix are undefeated in their last five matches (3W, 2D), the last time they went longer without a loss was a memorable nine-game stretch from Nov 2019 to Jan 2020 (W6, D3).
- Come From Behind: No team has picked up more competition points from a losing position in the A-League since the start of April 2021 than the Wellington Phoenix (6 points), while no team has lost more competition points from a winning position in that time than Adelaide United (8).
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA (c), 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12.Matthew RIDENTON, 13.Charles LOKOLI-NGOY, 14.Alex RUFER, 15.Mirza MURATOVIC, 17.Tomer HEMED, 18.Ben WAINE, 19.Sam SUTTON, 20.Oliver SAIL, 21.Joshua LAWS, 23.Clayton LEWIS, 27.Steven TAYLOR
**1-3 to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Liam McGING (promoted), 12.Matthew RIDENTON (promoted), 15.Mirza MURATOVIC (promoted)
Outs: 8.Cameron DEVLIN (suspended – 1 match), 16.Louis FENTON (suspended – 1 match)
Unavailable: 3.Luke DEVERE (knee – 2 weeks)
Adelaide United squad: 2.Michael MARRONE, 3.George TIMOTHEOU, 4.Ryan STRAIN, 6.Louis D’ARRIGO, 7.Ryan KITTO, 8.Stefan MAUK (c), 9.Tomi JURIC, 11.Craig GOODWIN, 18.Joe CALETTI, 19.Yaya DUKULY, 23.Jordan ELSEY, 26.Ben HALLORAN, 27.Josh CAVALLO, 28. JUANDE, 29.Kusini YENGI, 33.Dakota OCHSENHAM (gk), 34.Yared ABETEW, 35.Al Hassan TOURE, 37.Jonny YULL, 46.Joe GAUCI (gk)
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 19.Yaya DUKULY (promoted), 34.Yared ABETEW (promoted), 37.Jonny YULL (promoted)
Outs: 17.Mohamed TOURE (suspended)
Unavailable: 16.Nathan KONSTANDOPOULOS (knee), 21.Javi LÓPEZ (knee), 22.Michael JAKOBSEN (hamstring)