Phoenix on Song for First Win


Never has a team song been belted out with such gusto as that by the Wellington Phoenix after beating Sydney FC 1-0 at Westpac Stadium.

Weeks of pent-up tension was released as noise reverberated round the dressing room, even being heard by people outside the stadium.

Who could blame them? For weeks Ernie Merrick-s new brand of football had taken opposing teams apart with goals and three points for a win the only thing missing.

For a while in the first half it looked as if that trend could continue as the upright and crossbar was hit, but in the 33rd minute Costa Rican international Carlos Hernandez released Stein Huysegems with a peach of a through ball and the Belgian striker rounded the goalkeeper and found the net from an acute angle.

Despite creating chances there were no more goals forthcoming in the second half and it was a nervous last few minutes for Merrick before referee Peter O-Leary blew the final whistle.

The only dampener on the night was the serious injury sustained by Phoenix talisman Paul Ifill.

Four minutes into the second spell Ifiill went down with no one near him, thumping the Westpac turf as pain surged through his body from what appeared to be a ruptured Achilles tendon.

Ifill was taken straight to hospital where his leg was put in plaster. He went home for the night but returned to the hospital next morning for an operation.

Merrick said the injury to the 34-year-old was a big blow to the player and club.

“It-s so sad because that-s the best I-ve seen Paul play since I-ve been at the club. I thought he was outstanding,” he said.

On a positive note Merrick was delighted not only with the season-s first win but the way it was achieved.

“We not only won but we played well, though I didn-t feel there was a lot of difference between this game and three or four other games that we-ve played recently,” he said.

“The backline was rock solid, pushed up high; we were prepared to press them in their own half and take risks at the back.

“When we won the ball iet wasn-t a long ball forward, it was good inter-passing and again we created a bag-load of chances.

“I felt we were two or three goals better than Sydney tonight and they-re not a bad team at all.”

Wellington Phoenix: Glen Moss, Louis Fenton, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante, Manny Muscat, Albert Riera, Vince Lia, Kenny Cunningham (Jason Hicks 67m), Carlos Hernandez (Leo Bertos 85m), Paul Ifill (Jeremy Brockie 49m), Stein Huysegems.