A dubious penalty has given Wellington Phoenix a 1-0 home win over a vastly improved Western Sydney Wanderers to consign the ACL champions to a tenth straight winless outing in the 2014/15 Hyundai A-League.
Roy Krishna converted at the second attempt from the penalty spot, after going to deck in the penalty area, appearing to have his heels clipped by Daniel Alessi. Replays perhaps suggested the contact was minimal.
The visitors banged hard on the door for an equaliser and enjoyed parity – if not superiority – for large parts of the game but were unable to break down a stout Wellington defensive line.
1-0 Krishna (14 minutes)
The Fijian flier won a questionable penalty and stepped up to take it. His initial spot-kick was saved by Ante Covic, but Krishna followed up to slam home the rebound.
When things aren’t going your way, things aren’t going your way. The last thing Tony Popovic needed was a penalty call going against him, especially when it eventually proved to be the game’s only goal.
Opta Data key stats
The Wanderers earned twelve corners, the majority of which were swung into a heavily populated six-yard box as they attempted to utilise their significant height advantage. On more than one occasion, Phoenix custodian Glen Moss used the one-handed punch to great effect.
The Wanderers shaded territory and possession and had 19 shots on goal, but were – yet again – unable to find the net. Six goals in fifteen hours of football will provide an ongoing conundrum for Tony Popovic.
Late in the game, two Western Sydney Wanderers players evaded the offside trap and looked for all the world as though they’d combine for an equaliser. Glen Moss made a superb save before a defensive intervention from birthday-boy Albert Riera cleared the danger.
Roy Krishna was withdrawn after 50 minutes with a hamstring injury and will miss Wednesday’s visit to Adelaide United.
Back to the drawing board
Ernie Merrick will contemplate a trip to Adelaide without the two players who have combined for fifteen of his side’s 22 goals this season. With Nathan Burns joining the Socceroos and Roy Krishna nursing the aforementioned hamstring injury, Merrick will need the likes of Tyler Boyd and Jeremy Brockie to step up from bench roles to starting spots in the next seven days.
The Final Word
Tony Popovic might not see this as a turning point in his side’s season, but he will certainly be encouraged by the performance of his charges against one of the A-League’s form teams. The Wanderers may be down on form and luck, but they’re not out and could still have a say in the make-up of the A-League’s mid-table positions come April.
Ernie Merrick’s teams have won matches playing attractive football since he started coaching in the A-League, but tonight his Phoenix had to grind out a win. They say you sometimes have to win ugly, but the result is the same. The three points they fought hard for, for 94 minutes have allowed them to open a five-point buffer over Sydney FC and cement fourth spot after a dozen matches.
Preview: Wellington 1 Western Sydney 0
The Wanderers are on the road in another country. Again! And this time Popa's travel weary Asian Kings - fresh from the Club World Cup in Morocco - face the form team of the Hyundai A-League in Wellington. A big Christmas crowd is tipped for this crackerjack match-up.