Resolute defensive effort pleases Kalezić as Phoenix record first clean sheet 


In steamy conditions on the Gold Coast it was a slightly sluggish start from both hosts and visitors, with Phoenix coach Darije Kalezić perhaps having emphasised the importance of defence early on.

Former Roar striker Andrija Kaludjerović drew the first save of the game in the 7th minute with a tester from outside the box before Matt Ridenton flashed a shot well over after good lead up work in the 17th minute.

With the opening exchanges pretty even Roar enjoyed several good moments thirty minutes in – home fans cried out for a VAR check after Daniel Mullen and Ivan Franjic came together inside the box but neither referee Shaun Evans nor the video official saw an infringement, before Corey Brown fired the resulting loose ball over the bar.

Frenchman Eric Bautheac was, as expected, a livewire down the left and he fired in a terrific cross but Massimo Maccarone was unable to connect.

From there it was Phoenix who finished the half the stronger – Jamie Young forced to tip Kaludjerović over from close range before Roar faced a VAR scare of their own with Jack Hingert handling inside the box.

Bautheac limped out of the game in the 40th with a hamstring strain, before Ridenton fashioned a dangerous snapshot that had Young scrambling.

With a minute to go it was the Roar custodian again with two terrific saves, rebuffing firstly captain for the night Dario Vidošić’s fierce driven shot to the bottom corner, before tipping another powerful strike from Ridenton around the post.

Five shots to zero on target for the visitors, but it ended all square at half time.

After the break it was another cat and mouse encounter with Phoenix dominating most of the duels and fashioning more opportunities, but missed the pacey presence of Roy Krishna to really open up the Roar defence.

Maccarone headed over in the 52nd minute after fine work from Franjic and a drilled crossed from Hingert before former Phoenix flyer Corey Gameiro entered the fray.

Vidosic had one or two customary headed chances, the best from a corner where his goal-bound effort struck the back of a fellow player before Goran Paracki tried a speculative effort from long range.

A moment of spite in the 85th minute when substitute Peter Skapetis appeared to tread on a prone Tom Doyle after the two had tangled, prompting an angry response from the All White, but referee Shaun Evans kept a calm head, and showed just yellows to both players.

And with the Roar having not fashioned a single shot on target in 89 minutes it was Gameiro who almost delighted the home fans with Brisbane’s best chance of the game – but Lewis Italiano stood tall inside the Phoenix goal to block the one-on-one effort, and ensured Wellington’s first clean sheet of the season.

For coach Kalezić this was the most pleasing aspect of the performance especially given the coach’s challenge to the players during the week.

“The team for the first time in a couple of months keeps a clean sheet,” said Kalezić, “that makes me very satisfied. I am a coach who likes good and solid organisation. We struggle a lot … to create that until now, and after our games, days, weeks and months, we [achieve] today.”

“Actually, this game we should also win – I think we deserve to win – but what is in my mind is only happiness about [the] clean sheet and that we play solid game from the first until the last minute.”

“We spoke this week with each other, because we lead some games not only one-zero, we lead some games two-zero, even three-zero – like against Brisbane at home – and we give [these] games away.”

The Phoenix remain in Australia now until their Round 11 clash away to Perth Glory on Sunday 17 December, spending time acclimatising to both temperature and time zone in a training camp on the Gold Coast.