The Phoenix have ended their brilliant nine match unbeaten streak with a 1-0 loss to Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium – in an entertaining match dictated at times by weather, impactful substitutions and just plain bad luck for the visiting side.
Wellington were unable to get on the scorecard after a dominating first half, and then couldn’t equalise after Brisbane scored a fortunate goal in the second.
The Phoenix were missing midfielders Reno Piscopo and Alex Rufer, with mainstay David Ball also not in the starting line-up after suffering a hip injury in Round 13. Meanwhile the Roar were missing their captain, Tom Aldred, (suspended) and leading goal scorer Roy O’Donovan – a late scratch due to injury – but were buoyed by ex-Western United striker Scott McDonald being available on their bench.
Phoenix began the match with their customary strong attack in the early going, with both Jaushua Sotirio and Callum McCowatt putting pressure on Brisbane’s defence with a series of dazzling runs. Their first attempt came via a pass from Tim Payne into Ulises Davila near the edge of the penalty box, with Davila’s attempt going wide of the goal.
A series of back-and-forth attempts ensued; with Jack Hingert’s strike landing in the arms of Phoenix goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic, and a narrow miss by McCowatt following a strong run into Brisbane’s half. Then James O’Shea, looking for his first goal this season, kicked his attempt well wide of the goal over Marinovic’s outstretched hand.
A strong attempt on goal by Sotirio in the 26th minute was simply unlucky to miss; the ball just rattling the Roar’s crossbar. History would repeat soon after, as a pair of Phoenix corners ended up with a promising attempt by Steven Taylor – which stunningly was again denied by the crossbar.
Half-time came with both teams failing to register a goal – but with Wellington clearly dominating play thanks to strong runs by Cacace, Sotirio and McCowatt in particular, with the Roar giving plenty of open space for the Phoenix to operate up the sides of the field. Both sides had good attempts on goal that couldn’t be converted, and with at-times sloppy play by the Roar that resulted in plenty of broken passes for the home side.
The second half began with both sides pressing the attack. Brisbane’s Bradden Inman was the first to shoot on goal – way off the mark – and a subsequent curling kick from O’Shea was spectacularly denied by Marinovic.
The introduction of McDonald onto the pitch gave the Roar some added confidence, as they began to press harder on attack; highlighted by a strong attempt by Inman directly in front of goal that was again saved by Phoenix’s Marinovic. The rain descended at this point of the match, bringing some respite to the players in the high Brisbane humidity.
Phoenix subbed in Ball to try and get things going their way – but it was Roar’s other sub, Dylan Wenzel-Halls who showed excellent ball control to net his first goal of the season, putting Brisbane up 1-0 at 69 minutes.
A pair of passes from Ball into Gary Hooper failed to put Phoenix on the scoreboard; the former being deflected by Brisbane’s goalkeeper Jamie Young and Hooper unable to get a foot onto the latter. Young, playing an excellent match in goal, also managed to deflect a series of subsequent attempts by Davila, Ball and McCowatt.
A miscue by Inman – perhaps in contention for miss of the year – prevented the home side from going up 2-0, and then tempers flared between both teams after a foul on Devlin, with a yellow issued to both teams.
The Phoenix were desperate to equalise but couldn’t get any meaningful opportunities in the Brisbane half, with a last-minute free kick unable to change the final score: 1-0 to Brisbane. Despite Wellington dominating for much of the match – as evidenced by their 40 balls into the box versus Roar’s 17 and their 12-6 corners – couldn’t convert their chances, and saw their nine match unbeaten streak come to an end.
The loss keeps Wellington in fourth place on the ladder, while Brisbane rises up to sixth.
The Phoenix return home to Wellington’s Sky Stadium next round, playing their first Friday night match of the season at 7.15pm against bottom-placed Newcastle Jets. Wellington will hope to have some of their key players back on board for this match, but will also have to do without Matti Steinmann – who picked up his fifth yellow card of the season and will miss Round 16 due to suspension.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1. Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 3. Luke DEVERE, 5. Matti STEINMANN, 6. Tim Payne, 8. Cameron DEVLIN, 10. Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 13. Liberato CACACE, 21. Callum McCowatt, 27. Steven TAYLOR (c), 88. Gary HOOPER
Brisbane Roar Starting XI
2.Scott NEVILLE, 3. Corey BROWN, 4.Daniel BOWLES, 6.Macaulay GILLESPHEY, 8.Jacob PEPPER, , 10.Bradden INMAN, 19.Jack HINGERT, 21.Jamie YOUNG (gk), 25.Rahmat AKBARI, 26.Jay O’SHEA, 30.Mirza MURATOVIC
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
64’ ON 9. David BALL OFF 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO
76’ ON 31.Ben WAINE OFF 3.Luke DEVERE
90’ On 32.Sam SUTTON OFF 13. Liberato CACACE
Western Sydney Wanderers Substitutions
55’ ON 77.Scott MCDONALD OFF 30.Mirza MURATOVIC
66’ ON 23.Dylan WENZEL-HALLS ON 25.Rahmat AKBARI
1.Max CROCOMBE (gk), 13.Stefan MAUK, 14.George MELLS, 15.Aaron REARDON, 20.Aaron AMADI-HOLLOWAY, 22.Jake MCGING, , 27.Kai TREWIN, 28.Izaack POWELL,
69’ Dylan WENZEL-HALLS (Brisbane Roar)
Next Match details
Round 16 – Wellington Phoenix versus Newcastle Jets at Sky Stadium, Wellington; Friday 24th January 2020, 7.15pm NZT