GOALS to Wellington Phoenix striker Dylan Macallister and captain Andrew Durante earned the home side a deserved 2-1 victory over Argentine side Boca Juniors at a wet and windy Westpac Stadium in Wellington on Friday night.
The vocal home crowd of 11,751 witnessed an at times fiery and ill-tempered clash in which no quarter was asked and none given by both teams. It resulted in the visiting side ending the game with 10 men, defender Christian Cellay collecting a brace of yellow cards.
The match completes the major pre-season hit-outs for the Phoenix, having beaten Brisbane Roar 2-1 in Hamilton and losing 2-0 away to Adelaide United. Their next match will be the opening round of the Hyundai A-League competition at Westpac Stadium on Friday, August 13, against Gold Coast United.
Boca danger man Marcelo Canete tested the Phoenix defence in the 10th minute when he stepped his way through four defenders before sliding the ball beyond Phoenix goalkeeper Mark Paston-s right-hand post. Soon after, Paston-s hands welcomed the warmth provided by a Pablo Mouche drive.
The game picked up in intensity following a harsh challenge on Paul Ifill by Cellay that earned the Argentine a yellow card from referee Jamie Cross in the 20th minute.
Phoenix striker Macallister bagged his first goal at home for his new club four minutes later when he met a well-weighted low cross from fellow front man Chris Greenacre on the six yard box following fine lead-up work from Ifill and Leo Bertos.
Phoenix custodian Paston was pressed into action in the closing moments of the first half, saving low and to his left a free kick from Mouche outside the penalty area.
The home side deserved their lead heading into the break, the starting lineup – Macallister aside – having a familiar look from that which closed the previous Hyundai A-League season.
Greenacre had an early opportunity in the second stanza to extend the Phoenix lead but his header to a delightful Troy Hearfield cross from in front of goal looped over the crossbar.
Referee Cross issued further cards to Boca-s Lucas Viatri and Phoenix midfielder Tim Brown in separate incidents soon after as both teams showed their competitive nature in the “friendly” match. Boca-s Jesus Mendez, who nailed Brown in a poor challenge, and Juan Insaurralde also found their way into the referee-s notebook.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert resisted making any changes till near the hour mark, introducing Argentine triallist Roberto “Toto” Cornejo for Macallister and Brazilian-cum-Kiwi playmaker Daniel for Bertos.
Daniel made his mark almost immediately in the 61st minute when his looping left-footed cross from a free kick found captain Andrew Durante on the far post for a close-range header across the Boca goal and into the net.
Greenacre made way for triallist Mirjan Pavlovic to show his wares with 20 minutes remaining. Tempers flared soon after when Cellay was sent from the field after a clumsy challenge and connection of heads with Ifill. The Phoenix midfield dynamo was replaced soon after by English triallist Christopher Shuker – who played alongside Greenacre at Tranmere Rovers.
With eight minutes remaining Durante deflected a cross by Orlando Gaona Lugo beyond Paston to revive the visitors- hopes of a result. However, the Phoenix defence held firm to ensure the club-s final pre-season match ended on a positive note.