The Wellington Phoenix overcame adversity to beat Melbourne Victory 3-2 at AAMI Park on Sunday night and ruin Archie Thompson’s 200 games celebrations.
The Phoenix twice came from behind to give the club it’s first win over Victory in Melbourne in eight seasons of trying, but the signs weren’t good leading up to kick off.
The bus supposed to take the Phoenix from their Novotel hotel in St Kilda went to the Novotel in the city by mistake and the Wellington players had to scramble into cabs for a race to the ground.
While the Phoenix players laughed off the travel problems they were not at their best in the first half and fell behind to a Scott Galloway goal in the 24th minute.
Three minutes before the break Roly Bonevacia pulled the Phoenix level with a 25-metre free kick that went like a tracer bullet into the top corner of Nathan Coe’s net.
In the second half the Phoenix began to seize the initiative though it was former Wellington player Kosta Barbarouses who opened the scoring for the home side after nine minutes.
Fourteen minutes later the visitors were level with the unlikely scorer being Michael Boxall who headed home a Bonevacia free kick.
The Phoenix smelt the possibility of a stunning win was possible and it was Boxall who provided the impetus with a strong run down the right flank before crossing for Burns to turn into an empty net for the decisive goal.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick was delighted with his team’s stunning win over a team he guided to two Grand Final wins.
“It is always good to win away from home, especially against such a good team,” Merrick said.
“To me Victory are the best team in the league and while they caught us out a few times in the first spell we sorted a few things out at halftime and got better and better in the second half.”
Merrick felt his team’s high levels of fitness played a major part in them finishing so strongly.
He also jokingly described how he got it all wrong with his team’s first and second goals.
“On the first goal I turned to Chris Greenacre and said ‘I hope he’s not going to shoot’. He shoots and scores.
“For the second one I said I hope he shoots and he crosses to the back post where Boxall buries a great header.
“I thought Nathan Burns had an outstanding game. He was really brilliant at taking players on.”
Wellington Phoenix: Glen Moss, Michael Boxall, Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund, Manny Muscat, Albert Riera, Alex Rodriguez, Roly Bonevacia, Michael McGlinchey (Jason Hicks 90m), Roy Krishna (Joel Griffiths 61m), Nathan Burns (Vince Lia 95m).