SPURRED on by the early loss of talisman Paul Ifill to injury, the Wellington Phoenix delivered a 4-0 Christmas stuffing to the visiting Newcastle Jets in their Hyundai A-League encounter at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.
The win was just the tonic the Phoenix club and fans needed after unease matching Ifill-s obvious discomfort descended on the 6053-strong crowd as the hometown playmaker was stretchered from the field with an injury to his left leg in the 10th minute. He was taken to hospital where x-rays showed no signs of a fracture.
But the Phoenix proceeded to put on a football clinic, flummoxing the Jets- midfield and defence with well-crafted attacking movements to lead 3-0 at the break.
The result keeps the Phoenix firmly in top six contention and level-pegging with the Jets in the standings. The scoreline was all the more impressive in the home side being able to unlock a miserly defence that had only been opened 12 times all season heading into the match.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert gave teenage sensation Marco Rojas his run-on start for the club, and opted for Dylan Macallister alongside Ifill up front. Tim Brown wore the captain-s armband with Andrew Durante sitting out an automatic one-match suspension for five yellow cards, Manny Muscat slotting in at the back.
Ifill-s match was over after falling awkwardly following a fair tackle from the Jets- Tarek Elrich, with Chris Greenacre coming on alongside Macallister. However, the Phoenix spirits lifted considerably when Brown was on hand in the 18th minute to head in the opening goal from close range following an inch-perfect Greenacre cross after fine buildup work from Rojas down the right flank.
Brown-s confidence was underlined with a 20m drive that forced Jets custodian Matthew Nash to dive low to his left to save in the 25th minute. Six minutes later the Phoenix went two-up when, from a quickly taken free kick, Muscat-s left-footed cross was nodded down by Macallister for Rojas to punch home his first goal for the club from close range.
The Phoenix rounded out a fine first half when, in the 42nd minute, Greenacre-s shot from a goalmouth scramble was adjudged to have crossed the goalline despite a desperate clearance from a Jets defender.
Phoenix goalkeeper Danny Vukovic showed fine reflexes to push a close range effort from Labinot Haliti early in the second half as the Jets pushed forward with intent. Elrich-s thumping strike from inside the penalty area soon after was also well-stopped by the Phoenix gloveman.
Having substituted Bertos for Daniel midway through the second stanza, coach Herbert ended an impressive match for Rojas with 10 minutes remaining, giving fellow teen James Musa time off the bench.
Macallister ensured the Phoenix head into Christmas in high spirits when he was on hand to slot the ball home from a low Brown cross in the 88th minute. It was deserved reward for the frontman, who worked tirelessly all match.
The Phoenix-s next game is against North Queensland Fury in Townsville on December 27.