The Wellington Phoenix are officially on a roll – beating the Western Sydney Wanderers 2-1 at Eden Park, Auckland to earn a three-game winning streak for the first time this season. The win adds to their overall Hyundai A-League points tally, giving them 10 points in their last four matches and moving them up into 4th place on the ladder for the first time.
In contrast to the rising Phoenix, the Wanderers have now slumped to their fourth straight loss, despite dominating the first half of play and having a good amount of possession throughout the match.
In front of a boisterous Eden Park crowd, the match kicked off with the Wanderers quick on the attack; an early foul and the visitors lined up for a free kick that was easily blocked by a Phoenix wall of defenders.
Wellington attempted to retaliate, but the Wanderers were again able to gain possession – a lightning strike by Kwame Yeboah just missing the goal. A pair of follow-up goal attempts by the visitors were also unsuccessful thanks to some solid Phoenix defence.
Some dubious calls by the referees ensured that Western Sydney retained possession and had plenty of chances; benefitting from the majority of 50/50 calls on the field and ignoring some blatant fouls by the visitors that had both Coach Ufuk Talay and the crowd incensed.
The Wanderers had another chance at goal 19 minutes in, off of a pair of corners; but again they wouldn’t make it count thanks to a strong save by Phoenix goalkeeper, Stefan Marinovic.
Meanwhile the Phoenix had trouble advancing the ball into the Wanderer’s area, thanks to energetic defence by their midfield as they focussed on crowding any Phoenix player with possession of the ball.
Another corner for the Wanderers at 32 minutes that had a great chance at goal, but was saved yet again thanks to a flying stop from Marinovic.
Soon after the Phoenix had their first chance on attack; a corner resulted in a Tim Payne kick that rocketed over the net. An early substitution followed as Rufer got into a nasty 50/50 with Schwegler, with speedster Cameron Devin replacing him on the field.
At the end of the first half both teams were held scoreless; uncharacteristically for the Phoenix, it was the opposing team instead who were dominating possession and enjoying multiple chances at goal. A pep talk by Coach Talay to the team behind closed doors, in addition to making some tactical adjustments, ensured that the team would come out firing in the second half.
And that’s exactly what happened, with the second half starting in spectacular fashion thanks to an unbelievable setup from David Ball; flicking the ball backwards to a waiting Jaushua Sotirio, who looped a kick over goalkeeper Daniel Lopar for his first Phoenix goal – and against his old club no less. Ball himself earned another assist; he’s now one of only three players to have three of more assists this season, solidifying his role as a premier setup man.
Tempers flared at one point between Ulises Davila and Daniel Georgievski; the latter a pest all night against the Phoenix. Soon after the Wanderers had another chance at goal that was blocked by Steven Taylor; at the other end, Sotirio – eager for a second goal – had a decent chance at goal but his shot was caught by Lopar.
Then at 64 minutes came a quick strike by Nicolai Muller, with the German equalising into the far corner to tie the match up 1-1.
Despite this, the Phoenix remained full of confidence and determined to regain the lead – highlighted by a fantastic chance by Liberato Cacace at 77 minutes, chesting the ball and then shooting just wide. This was shortly followed by another strong attempt inside the box by substitution Callum McCowatt, with the crowd surging behind the Phoenix in anticipation of another goal.
At 85 minutes, a handball inside the Wanderers box required a VAR check to confirm its legitimacy – with the ensuring penalty kick again placed in the care of rising superstar Ulises Davila. As he’s done all season, Davila easily slotted the penalty to put the Phoenix up 2-1 with minutes left to play; giving the Mexican Magician his sixth goal of the season and a perfect 4 from 4 on penalties.
With seven minutes of extra time added, the Phoenix held on against a desperate Wanderers attack to preserve the win, in the process extending their winning record at Eden Park; having now won three times and drawn twice at their alternate home venue over five matches. They will return to Eden Park in February 2020 to defend their record against Melbourne City FC.
Coach Ufuk Talay said it was a hard-fought win but they deserved the win – and he was particularly happy to see Sotirio score his goal.
“I’m very happy for Jaushua scoring a goal, especially against his old team. He did it again in the pre-season and again tonight, so I’m very very happy for him.”
Next up, The Wellington Phoenix will head back to Australia, taking on Melbourne Victory at AAMI Stadium, 7pm NZST on Saturday 14th December 2019.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1. Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 3. Luke DEVERE, 5. Matti STEINMANN, 6. Tim Payne, 7. Reno PISCOPO, 9. David BALL, 10. Ulises DAVILA, 11. Jaushua SOTIRIO, 13. Liberato CACACE, 14. Alex RUFER, 27. Steven TAYLOR (c)
Western Sydney Wanderers Starting XI
1.Daniel LOPAR (gk), 4.Dylan MCGOWAN, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI, 6.Matthew JURMAN, 7.Mitchell DUKE (c), 9.Nicolai MULLER, 11.Bruce KAMAU, 17.Keanu BACCUS, 19.Pirmin SCHWEGLER, 27.Kwame YEBOAH, 29.Daniel WILMERING
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
41’ ON 8. Cameron DEVLIN OFF 14. Alex RUFER
81’ ON 21. Callum MCCOWATT OFF 7. Reno PISCOPO
84’ ON 88.Gary HOOPER OFF 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO
Western Sydney Wanderers Substitutions
66’ ON 34.Patrick ZIEGLER OFF 29.Daniel WILMERING
90+1 ON 14.Alex MEIER 9.Nicolai MULLER
48’ 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO (Wellington Phoenix)
64’ 9.Nicolai MULLER (Western Sydney Wanderers)
89’ 10.Ulises DAVILA (Wellington Phoenix)
Next Match details
Round 10 – Wellington Phoenix versus Melbourne Victory at AAMI Stadium, Melbourne; Saturday 14th December 2019, 7pm NZT