The Wellington Phoenix have fallen 2-1 to defending champs Sydney FC tonight, in a wildly entertaining match that the Nix controlled for large stretches of the game.
In their first match of the A-League 2020/21 season and first time in front of a Win Stadium, Wollongong crowd, the Phoenix’s starting line-up featured three players making their Nix debuts; Clayton Lewis, Mirza Muratovic and Joshua Laws.
With Ulises Dávila and Tomer Hemed on the bench as they continue to work their way to full match fitness, Alex Rufer would don the captain’s armband for this match.
The match started with the Phoenix firmly on attack, with attempts from Jaushua Sotirio and Lewis before Sydney’s Kosta Barbarouses would counter with his own chance; neither side able to make anything of their opportunities.
Sydney would strike first, with Calem Nieuwenhof banging home an impressive long range effort – from well outside the box – on the 29th minute. The 19-year-old joins a short list of players who have scored a goal on the first attempt in their A-League debut.
Wellington would press back in an attempt to equalise, with David Ball, Cameron Devlin and Lewis all having chances on goal they were unable to convert. But newcomer Mirza Muratovic would be the hero of the first half for the Phoenix, slotting home a goal from just inside the box prior to the half time whistle; the 20-year-old striker scoring his third career A-League goal and first for the Nix.
The first half would see the Nix level at 1-1, with possession evenly split between the two teams and Sydney FC with a 7 to 6 advantage for attempts – both teams with two shots on target.
Sotirio would open the second half of action with a strong turn and shot which was caught by Sydney goalkeeper, Andrew Redmayne. Sydney’s Luke Brattan’s attempt on goal a few minutes later, which was on target, was scooped up easily by Wellington goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.
Not to be deterred, Brattan would get his way on the 55th minute, smashing home a free kick to put Sydney up 2-1.
The arrival of subs Tomer Hemed – making his A-League debut and becoming the first Israeli player in the competition’s history – alongside Ulises Dávila, looked to energise the Phoenix; they would put strong pressure on Sydney’s defence in an effort to tie up the match.
Dávila would have a strong attempt on 77 minutes which was unlucky to bounce away from an untended Sydney goal. A flurry of attempts from Rufer, Hemed and Dávila just before full-time had Sydney squarely on the back foot – a goal in extra time by Dávila causing a brief celebration for Phoenix fans before it was ruled offside by VAR.
Sydney would hold on to take a 2-1 win, despite the Phoenix having a strong second half. After the match, Phoenix Coach Ufuk would praise his team’s strong second-half play in spite of the narrow loss.
“I think we finished strong towards the end, it took two really good goals to beat us this afternoon and overall I’m happy with our overall performance – but obviously I’m not pleased with the result,” says Talay.
Talay had praise for both Muratovic and Hemed for their respective impacts on the match.
“It’s always great for young players to get game time, and to score goals – I thought Mirza did well in the time he played, so hopefully he can build on that as well.”
“And Tomer came on and he made an impact – he got himself inside the box and had some good deliveries near the end of the match, which was great.”
The Phoenix will now move on and prepare for their next match, against A-League newcomers Macarthur Bulls at Campbelltown Stadium on Saturday 9th January.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 3.Luke DEVERE, 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 14.Alex RUFER (c), 15.Mirza MURATOVIC, 21.Joshua LAWS, 23.Clayton LEWIS
Sydney FC Starting XI
1.Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 3.Benjamin WARLAND, 4.Alex WILKINSON (c), 10.Milos NINKOVIC, 11.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 12.Trent BUHAGIAR, 16.Joel KING, 17.Anthony CACERES, 23.Rhyan GRANT, 26.Luke BRATTAN, 28.Calem NIEUWENHOF
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
60’ ON 10. Ulises DÁVILA OFF 23.Clayton LEWIS
60’ ON 17. Tomer HEMED OFF 15.Mirza MURATOVIC
63’ ON 16.Louis FENTON OFF 5.James MCGARRY
82’ ON 12.Matthew RIDENTON OFF. 8.Cameron DEVLIN
Sydney FC Substitutions
63’ ON 18.Luke IVANOVIC OFF 11.Kosta BARBAROUSES
64’ ON 5.Alex BAUMJOHANN OFF 17.Anthony CACERES
73’ ON 19.Christoper ZUVELA OFF 28.Calem NIEUWENHOF
82’ ON 33.Patrick WOOD OFF 12.Trent BUHAGIAR
82’ ON 7.Michael ZULLO OFF 16.Joel KING
29’ Calem NIEUWENHOF (Sydney FC)
45’+1 Mirza MURATOVIC (Wellington Phoenix)
66’ Luke BRATTAN (Sydney FC)
Next Match details
Week 3 – Wellington Phoenix versus Macarthur Bulls, Campbelltown Stadium, 9 Jan 2021, kick-off at 7.05pm AEDT