Things keep getting better for Phoenix

ALREADY buzzing with confirmation of their place in the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 playoffs, the Wellington Phoenix have celebrated in style – beating glamour club Gold Coast United 1-0 on the road.

ALREADY buzzing with confirmation of their place in the Hyundai A-League 2009/10 playoffs, the Wellington Phoenix have celebrated in style – beating glamour club Gold Coast United 1-0 on the road.

The Phoenix had earlier secured a historic spot in the top six after other results at the weekend but had vowed to chase the three points on offer in the round 26 match at Skilled Park on Sunday night to heat up the race for a home semifinal.

It was a characteristically gutsy performance from the Phoenix in warm, wet conditions in Robina, the visitors frustrating their opponents defensively while creating a swathe of scoring chances at the other end.

Paul Ifill-s penalty in time added on in the first half the made the difference in the final wash-up, the classy British striker coolly converting the spot kick after Tim Brown was brought down in the box as he got on the end of Ifill-s wonderful through-ball.

Following Perth Glory-s 3-2 loss the Sydney FC, the Phoenix-s win take them to clear fourth on the table and within reach of a home semifinal at Westpac Stadium with just one regular season match left, against the Central Coast Mariners at their Wellington fortress.

Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert was rapt with the performance of his team.

“We came here to win and that-s what we did. We were positive and we approached this as if it was a playoff match – we were up for it. Even though we knew we-d made the top six, it was clear what our intentions were and this win puts us in the driving seat for the top four and a home semifinal.”

The Phoenix-s defence, led superbly by skipper Andrew Durante and his centreback mate Jon McKain, was awesome. When the Gold Coast weren-t being shut down by the Phoenix-s tireless midfield of Tim Brown, Manny Muscat and Vince Lia, it was Durante and McKain who held the line and repelled the hosts.

Herbert refused to single any particular player out, saying the win was a true team effort.

“There was a lot riding on this match for us and for them and the Gold Coast is a tough place to come to. But everyone, from front to back, worked extremely hard in quite sapping conditions and played their part.”

It was another gutting result for the Gold Coast against the Phoenix. The Wellington club remains the only Hyundai A-League outfit the Gold Coast have failed to beat this season, with tonight-s result taking the Phoenix-s record to a draw and two wins – one a 6-0 drubbing at Westpac Stadium in round 12. The Gold Coast and their league-leading marksman – former Phoenix striker Shane Smeltz – have also failed to score against the New Zealand-based club this season.

The Phoenix now look forward to Friday night-s match against the Mariners at Westpac Stadium, where the hosts have not been beaten in 14 matches. A win on Friday night could well secure a historic home semifinal.

“It-s going to be a huge match and a huge occasion,” said Herbert. “I-m certain a big crowd will get a long and the team is really looking forward to that. It-ll be a piece of history and we want the fans to share in that.”

Gold Coast United 0
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Paul IFILL 45-+2 (pen))

Sunday, February 7, 2010
Skilled Park, Robina
Matthew Breeze
Crowd: 4202

Gold Coast United squad: 1. Jess VANSTRATTAN (gk), 3. Michael THWAITE, 7. Zenon CARAVELLA (19. Andrew BARISIC 67-), 8. ANDERSON, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Jason CULINA (c), 11. Charlie MILLER (23. Steve FITZSIMMONS 86-), 13. Bas VAN DEN BRINK, 14. Joel PORTER, 16. Kristian REES, 36. Dino DJULBIC (5. ROBSON 54-)

Substitutes not used: 20. Scott HIGGINS (gk)
Yellow cards: Charlie MILLER 20-, Zenon CARAVELLA 41-, ANDERSON 44-
Red cards: Nil

Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Manny MUSCAT (15. Eugene DADI 67-), 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 6. Tim BROWN, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES (7. Leo BERTOS 57-), 17. Vince LIA, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 40. Liam REDDY (gk)

Substitutes not used: 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk)
Yellow cards: Manny MUSCAT 21-, Andrew DURANTE 42-
Red cards: Nil