Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has hailed a breakthrough game for new acquisition Jeffrey Sarpong after watching his side earn back-to-back wins in the Hyundai A-League.
Sarpong was influential during his 67 minutes in the entertaining 3-2 win over Brisbane Roar at Westpac Stadium.
“He showed what he can do,” said Merrick of his Ghanaian attacker.
“That goal he set up for Roy Krishna – he received the ball running away with the side of his foot, controlled it perfectly, took it inside, drew the defender and laid it on with perfect weighting on the pass. All of a sudden you think, wow, this boy’s a good player.”
Krishna’s goal gave the Phoenix a 2-1 lead after they fell 1-0 behind in the first half to a sublime Dimitri Petratos finish, which was cancelled out by a stunning free-kick by Michael McGlinchey. But the home side needed a 78th minute winner from substitute Blake Powell after Phoenix old-boy Jade North equalised on the hour.
“I thought it was a real crowd-pleaser,” said Merrick of the game.
“The TV audience would have loved it and the live audience would have loved it. It was end to end stuff and very exciting.”
Merrick also singled out kiwi left-back Tom Doyle for special praise after his best game in a Phoenix shirt.
“Since he came on as a substitute against Newcastle, he’s got better every game. When Andrew Durante comes back it’s going to give me the type of headache I like and that’s the way it should be.”
Despite conceding two goals for the second home game in succession, Merrick was delighted to chalk up a second consecutive victory.
“I thought the first goal was against the run of play. I thought we had them on toast. We’ve got so many boys now that want to score goals.”
“I was really happy with our defence – we didn’t give away too much. They’re a good team so you know it’s not going to be easy and they’re always going to have shots.”
“All round it was a terrific performance and good result.”
The Phoenix next face a trip to Melbourne Victory on Monday week and Merrick warned his side can’t afford to rest on its laurels.
“The boys can’t sit back and say that was a great game. What they have to do is continue to get better,” he said.