Nathan Burns and Matija Ljujić have marked their Westpac Stadium return and debut respectively as winners as Phoenix overturn an early deficit to down Melbourne Victory 2-1 on Wednesday night.
On a night that the Video Assistant Referee once again loomed as a talking point, it was the general determination and improved final-third attack of Phoenix that stole the headlines as the new look strike-force created a remarkable 30 shots to 3, creating unrelenting pressure for the visitors.
Roy Krishna grabbed a goal in back to back fixtures before Andrija Kaludjerović pressured Mark Milligan into a late own-goal that ruled out Kosta Barbarouses’ early strike to send the faithful home fans into rapture.
It was a pulsating first forty-five with both sides looking full of intent from the outset.
An early foul on Tom Doyle gave Phoenix a dangerous freekick but the unlikely recipient of a ball-to-feet in the box, Marco Rossi, shinned wide.
Lawrence Thomas survived a nervy moment as he was almost closed down under a backpass but the game was turned on its head moments later with just seven minutes played.
A direct ball from Doyle was well controlled by Kaludjerović who was brought down from behind by Rhys Williams while through on goal. Referee Matthew Conger deemed it a yellow card offence but after consultation with the VAR reversed his decision and issued the Victory defender a straight red.
From there it was Phoenix in the ascendency, Matt Ridenton thumping a driven shot from outside the box off Thomas’s near post before Roy Krishna drew a good save in the 15th minute with the ball skidding in greasy conditions.
Thomas then stood tall against Kaludjerovic four minutes later with the Serbian through one-on-one, before Paracki fired a follow-up effort just high.
Darije Kalezić had reason for optimism and abandoned his original formation with Nathan Burns given an early homecoming off the bench, Rossi the unlucky one to make way for the positive attacking substitution.
Inside two minutes it was almost a masterstroke as Burns was found at the far post but the cross was just too high for the diminutive striker who couldn’t get the header on target.
Burns then turned provider firing a bullet cross but it had too much on it for Dylan Fox, who nodded over from inside the six-yard-box.
With Victory left to feed off scraps, Barbarouses looked the best outlet on the counter and the former Nix flyer capitalised in the 39th minute thumping home past Lewis Italiano.
In added time Krishna thought he’d drawn parity for the home side when the ball hit the net only for the linesman to signal for offside; Phoenix players were furious the decision hadn’t been referred upstairs but play had been stopped before ball finished hitting the net.
Matija Ljujić made his Phoenix debut at half-time for Michael McGlinchey, and after the break it was almost an immediate rejoinder – Kaludjerović this time beating Thomas but the linesman marked his finish off, replays suggesting correctly.
A terrific scrambling save from Thomas prevented a near wonder goal as Doyle looked to clear but almost found the top corner but minutes later the Victory custodian was unfortunate to blot his copybook.
A jinking run and shot from Burns squirmed through Thomas’ legs in the 63rd minute and Krishna was first on the scene to tap home from a metre out.
With the Phoenix increasingly in the ascendency, Ljujić came a whisker away from getting his name on the scoresheet after he headed an excellent cross from Doyle agonisingly past the post.
Facing a barrage of shots, Thomas almost capitulated again, after he bobbled another Burns shot but gratefully reclaimed ahead of an inrushing Kaludjerović.
But he couldn’t hold out forever and after more fine work from Burns down the left only a lunging Milligan could prevent the Serbian from tucking home, but the Victory skipper only helped to turn into his own net.
Both Kaludjerović and Ridenton had one-on-one chances in added time to extend the lead, but 2-1 proved enough for a Phoenix two record their second home win of the season.
Wellington will be back in action Saturday as they play host to Western Sydney Wanderers.