A super strike from Vince Lia helped secure Wellington Phoenix a 3-0 win over Central Coast Mariners in the Hyundai A-League on Saturday night at Hamilton's FMG Stadium.
Just two minutes into the contest, Phoenix hit the front as Kosta Barbarouses fired in from the edge of the box and Hamish Watson steered past Ivan Necevski.
Phoenix created a number of chances to add to the score and came agonisingly close just past the hour when Hamish Watson was played through by Jacob Tratt, but the striker's shot came off the post.
Eventually the pressure paid off as Lia fired an unstoppable drive from outside the box into the top corner to make it 2-0, in what was only his fourth Hyundai A-League goal of a stellar career.
Striker Roy Krishna added a third goal late on as he finished calmly past Necevski in the dying minutes of the match.
Ernie Merrick's attacking legacy appeared to remain at the club after his departure in the week, with Watson sinking an early goal within the first two minutes.
Barbarouses hit an effort from outside the box that Watson turned beyond the reach of Necevski for the opener.
On 23 minutes, Barbarouses exposed Krishna’s explosive pace by feeding a perfectly placed ball to the striker, which he dragged slightly wide.
Joint Interim Head Coaches, Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham put emphasis on sharpening the attack at the break and it paid dividends.
Watson came close when the ball landed at his feet in the box, but his shot hit the upright to deny the striker.
Then came the stunning moment of the night.
Having scored just three goals for the club in his 10 years, Lia doubled the lead with a stinging, top corner strike from 30 yards out to double the hosts’ lead.
Phoenix then began to look dangerous on the counter attack and in the dying minutes Barbarouses drove forward and played in Jacob Tratt, who squared it for Krishna and the Fijian striker stroked it home to complete the 3-0 win.
The three points for Wellington Phoenix has allowed them to leapfrog Central Coast Mariners into 7th place in the Hyundai A-League.
After the match Vince Lia spoke of his delight with the performance and his stunning strike.
“Well I don’t know why everyone is so surprised,” Lia joked.
“To be honest the ball popped out and I took a touch and said, hit it – if it goes in, it goes in.
“It was nice of the boot and it went it and I was quite shocked, obviously by my reaction.”
Greenacre and Buckingham were thankful for the work Merrick had done during his time at the club, which gave them the blueprint to go forward.
“For us he [Merrick] was the perfect mentor,” Greenacre said.
“We probably couldn’t have done it this week without him. We’re saddened but with football… you’ve got to move on and that’s what we’ve done this week and the lads have responded.
“It’s not about Des and I, it’s the boys and they put in a performance tonight and they deserve the win.”
“We set up during the week to stop the Mariners doing things we though would hurt us and the team did that first half and we were really pleased with that,” Buckingham added.
“At half-time we said defensively, we want to keep doing what we’ve done, but we turn our attacking game on and show people what we can do.
“They certainly did that after 10 minutes and it was very pleasing to watch.”
Up next, Phoenix take on Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday 17 December in Auckland at Mt Smart Stadium.
TV: Sky Sport 4
Phoenix are back at Westpac Stadium on Saturday 1 January 2017 when they take on Adelaide United.
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