Phoenix Impressive In First Game Success


One is a hardened pro, the other an enthusiastic teenager, and on Saturday night Manny Muscat and Louis Fenton played major roles as the Wellington Phoenix began their Hyundai A-League campaign in style with a 2-0 win over Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium.

It was the first time the Phoenix, entering their sixth campaign, had won the first game of the season but it was the manner in which they did it that will have whetted the lips of their fans.

The injection of pace into the side in the form of Fenton, Benji Totori and Stein Huysegems has turned the Phoenix into a much more attacking force.

Add to that the return into midfield of Muscat, alongside Alex Smith, meant the ammunition for the flying forwards was plentiful, and the midfield duo were complemented by the overlapping of Leo Bertos and Tony Lochhead from fullback.

Muscat set up both goals. The first in the 43rd minute with a lovely floated pass that the impressive Huysegems tucked away clinically, and the second after 75 minutes with an inch-perfect cross that Fenton powered into the net with a diving header.

It was Muscat who took Fox Sports- man-of-the-match award but 19-year-old Fenton must have pushed him close.

Fenton-s enthusiasm, allied to his skill and speed, appeared to spark the Phoenix who completely outplayed the visitors in a pulsating first 45 minutes.

Since joining the Phoenix-s Football School of Excellence in the off-season Fenton has impressed the coaching staff and his outstanding debut backed up their judgement.

Coach Ricki Herbert was fulsome in his praise of Fenton.

“I thought Louis was terrific tonight and in him we are seeing the fruits of what we can produce in New Zealand,” Herbert said.

“When you consider he was playing against a Premier League full back in Brett Emerton it is all the more impressive.

“I also thought Stein (Huysegems) was terrific. He has a great touch and linked things well. He also showed his class in the way he took his goal.
“We are quicker and more mobile up front than we have been in the past and still have the stability at the back that has stood us in good stead in the past.

“Leo has adapted well to the fullback role and he and Locky got forward well.”
Most of the pre-game hype centred round Italian star Alessandro Del Piero, and while the 38-yeear-old showed some classy touches he rarely looked likely to cause the Phoenix too many problems.

Asked if Muscat had been given the job of keeping Del Piero in check Herbert said that wasn-t the case.

“The closest person to Del Piero at any given time had that job,” he said.
“Manny did a great job overall in the midfield. He nicks things so well and kept the pace of the game going.”

It was an important three points for the Phoenix who go to Melbourne Heart next week without seven internationals, including both Mark Paston and Glen Moss.

“It isn-t only the seven internationals we will be missing; four of our senior players are still not back training,” Herbert said.

“It isn-t ideal with four of our back five missing but we will front up. I-ve picked a team that I-ve given to Chris (Greenacre) and Gouldy (Jonathan Gould) and there are three points to play for.

“We will bring in young players from our FSE and give it our best shot.”