The Wellington Phoenix beat Perth 2-1 last night for their first win versus the Glory on Australian soil since 2015, in the process solidifying their position in third place on the ladder – one point behind Melbourne City.
Playing for the first time in the new Bankwest Stadium – albeit to a closed audience – the Phoenix relied on goals from Gary Hooper and Ulises Davila to build a lead, then defended well against a desperate Perth offense to earn their twelfth victory of the season.
The Phoenix made three changes to their starting 11, bringing in Callum McCowatt, Hooper and Cameron Devlin in place of Alex Rufer, Jaushua Sotirio and Ben Waine.
Both teams felt each other out in the first 15 minutes of the match, with the Phoenix content for Perth to have more possession of the ball but preventing them from creating any meaningful opportunities out of it.
The first opportunity came from Bruno Fornaroli in the 19th minute, but he wasn’t able to capitalise on his attempt. Reno Piscopo – who enjoyed a strong game against Sydney FC – attempted his own strike five minutes later but it was blocked by the Glory defence.
The tempo noticeably picked up for the Phoenix after this point, culminating in a sublime pass by McCowatt that set up Hooper for a goal to put Wellington up 1-0 at 32 minutes; Hooper using his brute strength to force home his seventh goal of the season and his third against Perth, and McCowatt racking up his second assist.
The Phoenix relied on some strong defence to go into the break, with Stefan Marinovic blocking another attempt from Fornaroli outside the box and the Nix ensuring they would go into half-time up 1-0.
The second half started with the Phoenix piling on the pressure while also utilising their passing game – a Wellington hallmark as they currently lead the competition in passing accuracy.
After David Ball won a penalty against Jacob Tratt, a newly subbed on Ulises Davila coolly slotted home the resulting penalty kick to put the Nix up 2-0; in the process extending his record with a perfect 5 goals from 5 penalty attempts.
Davila now sits fourth equal in the competition with 12 goals, tied with Fornaroli, and also graduates into tenth place on the list of all-time Phoenix goal scorers; an impressive feat given it’s his first season with the club.
Perth continued to attack, highlighted by a headed attempt by Fornaroli at the 53 minute mark which was again denied by Marinovic. The Nix attempted to counter with a pair of attacking runs from Jaushua Sotirio and a dazzling backheel by Davila that couldn’t connect.
Another run from McCowatt – in arguably a Man of the Match effort - led to a chance by Ball shortly after that agonisingly hit the top of the net.
Perth struck back on 62 minutes thanks to a quick goal from Kiwi international Dane Ingham off of a set piece; Ingham’s second goal in as many matches as he looks to prove his worth to Coach Popovic after a lengthy layoff due to injury.
A desperate Perth side sought to equalise, with three attempts from the always-dangerous Fornaroli all caught or batted away by Marinovic over the next twenty minutes.
The Phoenix showed outstanding defence in the last ten minutes of the match, led by Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi who impressed in his limited minutes.
After the match, captain Steven Taylor praised the determination of his side.
“Credit to the boys tonight for their fighting spirit, I’m proud of them and their effort tonight, as you know we were playing against a quality side and you have to respect them and their abilities.”
The gutsy win sees the Phoenix remain in third place, one point behind Melbourne City with four matches remaining.
The Nix will next take on Adelaide United on Saturday 25 July, at Bankwest Stadium in Parramata – with a win effectively guaranteeing them a Top 6 finish. They’ll do so without midfielder Matti Steinmann, with his eighth yellow card of the season meaning he’ll be suspended for this match.
Wellingtonians will have a chance to watch the match in a stadium-style setting at the first ever Nix Stadium Experience.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 3.Luke DEVERE, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8. Cameron Devlin, 9.David BALL, 13.Liberato CACACE, 16.Louis FENTON, 21.Callum MCCOWATT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 88.Gary HOOPER
Perth Glory Starting XI
2.Alex GRANT, 5.Ivan FRANJIC, 9.Bruno FORNAROLI, 13.Osama MALIK, 20.Jake BRIMMER, 23.Dane INGHAM, 27.JUANDE, 28.Gabriel POPOVIC, 29.Kristian POPOVIC, 33.Liam REDDY (GK), 88.Neil KILKENNY (c)
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
46’ ON 10.Ulises DAVILA OFF 88.Gary HOOPER
52’ ON 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO OFF 7.Reno PISCOPO
83’ ON 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI OFF 21.Callum MCCOWATT
Perth Glory Substitutions
46’ ON 3.Jacob TRATT OFF 5.Ivan FRANJIC
46’ ON 7.Joel CHIANESE OFF 20.Jake BRIMMER
62’ ON 18.Nick D'AGOSTINO OFF 28.Gabriel POPOVIC
79’ ON 8.James MEREDITH OFF 23.Dane INGHAM
32’ Gary HOOPER (Wellington Phoenix)
48’ (Penalty) Ulises DAVILA (Wellington Phoenix)
62’ Dane INGHAM (Perth Glory)
Next Match details
Round 26 – Wellington Phoenix versus Adelaide United at Bankwest Stadium, Parramata; Saturday 25 July 2020, 7pm NZT