THE Wellington Phoenix moved into the top six of the Hyundai A-League with a deserved 3-0 win over the Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium on Wednesday night.
In notching up its third win of the season the home side extended its unbeaten run at home to 12 matches and it was the manner in which the three competition points were achieved that was most impressive.
The 4115 hardy and loyal Wellington fans that braved the cold, wet and windy midweek conditions left having witnessed a high energy and entertaining exhibition of football.
The Phoenix started the stronger, with captain Andrew Durante rattling the side netting with a close range header in the 10th minute as the home team settled into their work.
Striker Costa Barbarouses, after an impressive spell off the bench against Sydney in the previous round, was on target with a header in the 15th minute but was unable to direct it past Jets custodian Ben Kennedy.
The Phoenix-s attacking intent – and emerging control of the midfield – was underlined midway through the half when Paul Ifill shot wide from distance. Moments later Vince Lia drove from midfield and forced Kennedy into conceding a corner.
The home side-s energy and enthusiasm was rewarded when from the resulting set piece, with Barbarouses driving the ball low at Kennedy who fumbled – leaving midfielder Tim Brown to tap in his fourth goal of the season.
Phoenix goalkeeper Reece Crowther was pressed into serious action in the 34th minute when his sharp reflexes denied a header in front of goal from Jets frontman Michael Bridges, who was ruled offside.
Seemingly stung by the rare threat from the Jets, attention swiftly moved to the other end of the field, Barbarouses with a close range strike and then Chris Greenacre with a header both denied by a busy Kennedy.
Crowther then showed his value to cover a strike on target by Kaz Patafta to ensure the Phoenix went into the halftime break with a deserved 1-0 lead.
The home side got the breathing space they wanted 10 minutes into the second stanza with a superbly executed goal to Greenacre. But the sweetness was in the buildup and delivery – Ifill-s surging left flank run resulting in a low cross that was flicked on with a back heel by Barbarouses into the path of Greenacre. The English striker coolly slotted the ball with his left foot beyond a diving Kennedy.
The game was then played in the middle third, with few chances falling to either side till the 82nd minute when Jets defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley clipped Brown inside the penalty area. However, Greenacre-s shot from the spot was well saved by Kennedy, who dived low and full to his right.
Ifill made sure the three competition points came on the back of three goals when he took Leo Bertos pass in centre field and stood up Kennedy before dinking the ball into the back of the net in injury time.
While captain Durante was once again the rock at the heart of the Phoenix defence, and Ifill again showed his class, it was the speed and high-energy of Barbarouses that stood out.
The scene is set for another crunch match at Westpac Stadium on Sunday when the Phoenix host Perth Glory, in fifth place and just one point ahead of the home side.
Wellington Phoenix 3
(Tim Brown 27-, Chris Greenacre 55-, Paul Ifill 90+1-)
Newcastle Jets 0
Crowd: 4115 at Westpac Stadium, Wellington.
Wellington Phoenix: 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 6. Tim BROWN, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE (13. Troy HEARFIELD 87-), 11. DANIEL (7. Leo BERTOS 78-), 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 23. Costa BARBAROUSES (14. Adrian CACERES 88-).
Substitutes not used: 30. Jonathan GOULD (gk).
Yellow cards: Vince Lia 52-.
Newcastle Jets: 1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 2. Angelo COSTANZO (16. Jason HOFFMAN 61-), 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY, 5. Ljubo MILICEVIC, 7. Jin-Hyung SONG, 8. Matt THOMPSON (c), 11. Tarek ELRICH, 12. Jobe WHEELHOUSE, 14. Michael BRIDGES (9. Sasho PETROVSKI 70-), 22. Kaz PATAFTA (26. Ali ABBAS 56-), 25. Labinot HALITI.
Substitutes not used: 20. Neil YOUNG (gk).
Yellow cards: Angelo Costanzo 19-, Jobe Wheelhouse 36-.