SECOND-HALF goals to talisman Paul Ifill and new recruit Nick Ward propelled the Wellington Phoenix to a 2-1 home win over Sydney FC in their Hyundai A-League clash at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.
Ifill-s strike from the penalty spot and a 25m thunderbolt from Ward flanked a Bruno Cazarine goal for the visitors and, importantly, snapped a two-game losing run for the Phoenix.
The result clicked the unbeaten games mark over to 22 for the Phoenix before 8453 fans at Westpac Stadium and in doing so kept the boys from Botany Bay rooted at the foot of the points table. It was the second win for the Phoenix in five matches this season and keeps them well in touch of the top four.
Goalkeeper Danny Vukovic made his first appearance for the Phoenix, replacing the injured Mark Paston. The home side also welcomed the return of Manny Muscat to the midfield from international duty and gave Ward a run-on start after a second half club debut in Perth.
The first half resembled an incomplete drycleaning operation, with a lot of pressing but little folding done by either side.
Phoenix frontman Ifill created the game-s first opportunity in the eighth minute when he beat two Sydney defenders and from the byline sent in a cross that Tim Brown headed beyond visiting custodian Liam Reddy and on to the crossbar. Moments later, Ifill shot narrowly wide from distance following a Leo Bertos corner.
Midway through the first half Scott Jamieson beat an advancing Vukovic to the ball on the edge of the keeper-s box and the ball fell to Cazarine in front of goal but his shot went wide.
Chances were few and far between to the halftime break, leaving both sides scoreless.
The game got a much-needed goal five minutes after the resumption when Cazarine was adjudged to have fouled Phoenix defender Ben Sigmund inside the penalty area.
Referee Chris Beath pointed to the spot, issued Cazarine a yellow card and Ifill stepped up to coolly hit the spot-kick past Reddy into the back of the net.
Cazarine made up for his foul in fine style in the 67th minute, his delightful pass and receive with Mark Bridge putting him clear on goal to slot the ball past a defenceless Vukovic.
The home crowd barely had the chance to frown before Ward lifted the roof off the stadium with a superb 25m, right-footed thunderbolt from a simple layoff by Greenacre that found the top right-hand corner of the goal in the 71st minute.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert gave Greenacre a well deserved leave pass with 10 minutes remaining, the Englishman replaced by Mirjan Pavlovic having done considerable work up front for little personal reward.
The next two games for the Phoenix are in Melbourne – against the Victory at AAMI Park on Wednesday night before backing up against new franchise the Melbourne Heart at the same venue on Saturday, September 15.