The Wellington Phoenix turned on the style in the second half to beat Melbourne Heart 3-1 at Westpac Stadium today and move into second place on the Hyundai A-League table.
Before a crowd of 13,601, the Phoenix made the perfect start with talisman Paul Ifill scoring in the third minute, but they were rocked in the 36th minute when Alex Terra equalised with a well-taken goal against the run of play.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert told his players at half time to take the shackles off, relax and enjoy playing rather than worrying about the possibility of moving into second place.
His players responded magnificently, Leo Bertos in particular. A little tentative in the first spell, Bertos did what he does best in the 54th minute streaking past a defender and whipping in a cross that Chris Greenacre sent into the net with a perfect header.
Ifill completed the scoring in the 63rd minute and substitute Daniel almost made it 4-1 with a thunderbolt shot that hit an upright.
Herbert was delighted with the second half performance that saw his team home.
“We got a little tentative after that good start but once we got the momentum going again in the second spell we were always going to win,” Herbert said.
“Leo can be really influential when he uses his attributes and the cross for Greenie-s goal was all quality.
“The fans played their part today. They were bnlliant.”
Captain Andrew Durante agreed, saying the atmosphere was fantastic.
“With such a great crowd we didn-t want to disappoint them and I think they went home happy.
“I think we deserve to be where we are (second place).
“This club is all about proving people wrong. We were written off before a ball had been kicked, but we have worked really hard.
“We know what we need to do to win.”
Manny Muscat was a surprise starter for the Phoenix. Muscat had been in Melbourne awaiting the birth of his first child but flew into Wellington only two hours before kickoff.
He made a big contribution, not only with his defensive qualities but also with an assist for Ifill-s second goal.
He will fly back to Australia at 6am this morning, hopefully with Rebecca not having given birth.
Wellington Phoenix 3 (Paul Ifill 2, Chris Greenacre), , Melbourne Heart 1 (Alex Terra). HT: 1-1