The Wellington Phoenix have fallen 4-3 to the Wanderers last night at Bankwest Stadium, in a spectacular and high-scoring game which will rank among the best in A-League history.
In an exciting, see-saw affair that saw seven lead changes throughout the match, Wellington held an early lead thanks to first half goals from Ulises Davila and Cameron Devlin and a second half penalty from Tomer Hemed. But that lead would disappear late in the second half thanks to a goal in the 84th minute by Kwame Yeboah, with the Nix’s last-gasp equaliser by Hemed waved off thanks to a contentious VAR call.
Originally set to field the same line-up which beat Perth Glory 3-0 in their previous match, the Phoenix were forced to make a last-minute change involving Louis Fenton; the experienced right back out with a hip flexor injury suffered in warmups. Coach Talay would elect to move Alex Rufer into Fenton’s place at right back, with Devlin taking Rufer’s midfield spot.
The match began with both teams paying tribute to the victims of the Christchurch Mosque shooting in 2019; the two teams forming a circle at the halfway mark to observe a moment’s silence on the 2nd anniversary of this tragedy, and 51 seats reserved in the stands in memory of the 51 victims.
The Phoenix dominated possession in the early going, trading chances with the Wanderers. Seven minutes in, captain Ulises Davila struck a dagger to put the visitors up 1-0 early – taking an assist from Reno Piscopo and launching a left-footed shot from the centre of the box.
In addition to delighting the Mexican supporters on hand for this match, Davila’s fourth goal of the season also moved him up into 7th place on the Phoenix all-time scoring list – now tied with Stein Huysegems.
The Wanderers would equalise at the 23 minute mark, with Daniel Wilmering scoring his first A-League goal off of a cross from Bernie Ibini on the right side, to tie the match at one apiece.
Undeterred, the Phoenix kept the foot on the gas and were rewarded shortly after; Devlin catching a blocked shot 30 yards out from goal, chesting it down and delivering a worldie from well outside the box to put Wellington back in front, 2-1.
Devlin’s long-range effort will no doubt be a contender for A-League goal of the season, while also giving the 22-year-old midfielder his maiden goal for the Nix.
Subsequent attempts from Rufer and James McGarry would be caught by Wanderer’s goalkeeper Daniel Margush, resulting in the Phoenix going into the break with a 2-1 lead. With possession evenly split in the first 45 minutes, the Phoenix enjoyed an accurate first half with four of six shots on target – compared to the Wanderers three shots on target from 13, including five of their attempts being blocked by the swarming Nix.
The Wanderers would equalise – again – six minutes into the second half; Jordan Mutch taking a cross from Troisi following a corner and rocketing home a header past Sail. Both sides traded goal attempts for the next 10 minutes, the closest an attempt from Clayton Lewis that scraped across the Wanderer’s goal.
After Piscopo was bought down inside the box at 64 minutes, a freshed subbed Hemed converted the resulting penalty kick to restore the Nix lead at 3-2; Hemed earning his first goal of the season to the delight of the 200-strong Israeli supporters, all in attendance to see the A-League’s first Israeli player in action.
The Phoenix’s lead would be short-lived however, with Western Sydney retaliating immediately on the re-start; Duke taking a pass from Mutch to knock home his second goal of the season and square things up at three all.
Building momentum, the Wanderers continued to press, taking an errant pass and converting it into a goal in the 84th minute – subs Nicolai Muller delivering an assist to Kwame Yeboah for his third goal of the season – putting the Wanderers up 4-3 and giving them their first outright lead of the match.
After a trio of attempts by Davila, Piscopo and Lokoli-Ngoy were all blocked by Western Sydney defenders in the final minutes, a desperate Wellington would turn to Hemed in extra time; the forward slotting home what looked to be his second goal of the night, only to have it overturned by VAR due to his shoulder being offside.
The Wanderers would hold on to take a 4-3 win over the Phoenix, with Coach Talay reflecting on the match – and the result – afterwards.
“I’m disappointed but I’m pleased with our team’s performance; I think we were the better side overall, you score three goals away and you should win games,” said Talay.
“Overall, when we had the ball we had good control of it and we scored some good goals, so I’m pleased with the performance and we’ll just continue to build from that.”
Talay had praise for both Devlin and Hemed in the loss.
“Cammy scored a cracker of a goal, it’s funny how football works – Louis [Fenton] got injured in warmups and Cammy came in and did a great job for us.
“Strikers want to score goals, and [Tomer] scored a goal and got a second goal which was disallowed; hopefully that will give him a bit more freedom to play how we normally plays – hopefully he’ll get a lot of confidence from scoring and continue that in the future.”
The Phoenix will next travel to McDonald Jones stadium as part of an A-League double-header event, taking on the Brisbane Roar on Sunday 21 March for the first time this season.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 2.Liam McGING, 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 14.Alex RUFER, 18.Ben WAINE, 20.Oliver SAIL, 23.Clayton LEWIS
Western Sydney Wanderers FC squad: 2.Ziggy GORDON, 4.Dylan MCGOWAN (c), 9.Bernie IBINI, 12.Mitchell DUKE, 13.Tate RUSSELL, 14.James TROISI, 17.Keanu BACCUS, 19.Jordon MUTCH, 29.Daniel WILMERING, 30.Daniel MARGUSH (gk), 33.Mark NATTA
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
61’ ON 17.Tomer HEMED OFF 18.Ben WAINE
78’ ON 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO OFF 9.David BALL
86’ ON 13.Charles LOKOLI-NGOY OFF 23.Clayton LEWIS
Western Sydney Wanderers FC Substitutions
71’ ON 7.Bruce KAMAU OFF 14.James TROISI
71’ ON 11.Kwame YEBOAH OFF 12.Mitchell DUKE
75’ ON 27.Nicolai MULLER OFF 9.Bernie IBINI
7’ Ulises DAVILA (Wellington Phoenix)
23’ Daniel WILMERING (Western Sydney Wanderers)
32’ Cameron DEVLIN (Wellington Phoenix)
52’ Jordan MUTCH (Western Sydney Wanderers)
64’ (PEN) Tomer HEMED (Wellington Phoenix)
65’ Mitchell DUKE (Western Sydney Wanderers)
84’ Kwame YEBOAH (Western Sydney Wanderers)
Next Match details
Match Week 12: Wellington Phoenix versus Brisbane Roar, McDonald Jones Stadium, 21 Mar 2021, kick-off at 4.05pm AEDT (6.05pm NZ time)