The Wellington Phoenix have fallen 2-3 to Melbourne City FC last night at WIN Stadium, in a tense back-and-forth affair that featured five lead changes and plenty of heart from both teams.
After Melbourne opened things up with a goal by Curtis Good in the 17th minute, Tomer Hemed would equalise - before Jamie Maclaren’s strike just before half-time put the visitors back in front. Following an equaliser from Ulises Davila in the second half, Marco Tilio would score the eventual match winner to secure the win for Melbourne – moving them up to second place in the process, only two points behind the Central Coast Mariners in first.
With regulars Reno Piscopo, Steven Taylor and Liam McGing all out with injuries, Coach Talay elected to make a pair of changes to the starting 11 that faced Macarthur FC last round; Joshua Laws coming in as a central defender and Jaushua Sotirio making his third start of the season.
Here’s the key moments from this match:
3’ – Fast start for both teams
The Phoenix had a pair of set pieces in the early going, both times a corner from Clayton Lewis which the Nix couldn’t convert. After a strike from Davila and a header from Tim Payne were both off target, a curling goal attempt by Andrew Nabbout sailed over the Phoenix goal a minute later.
Both teams were noticeably aggressive early, with the Phoenix piling on the defensive pressure in Melbourne’s half and plenty of chances from both sides.
11’ – Chances for Maclaren
Maclaren – always the danger man for Melbourne – started to get himself going, with a header attempt deep in the Phoenix box which was off the mark, and a follow-up attempt from in front of the box was again thwarted by the strong Nix defence.
17’ – Good opens the account for Melbourne (0-1)
Melbourne gets on the board first thanks to Curtis Good, who takes advantage of a cross from Craig Noone on the set piece corner – Noone angling a header into the right of the box past Phoenix goalkeeper Oli Sail. This is Good’s first goal of the season and Noone’s fifth assist.
38’ - Sail to the rescue
Florin Berenguer takes a pass from Nabbout into the Phoenix box and attempts a strike into the left of goal; Sail fully stretches out to spectacularly save a strong attempt on goal.
39’ - Hemed with the equaliser (1-1)
Hemed, active throughout the first half on the offense, makes this attempt count. Taking a top-notch cross from David Ball into the centre of the box, Hemed unleashes a powerful goal that hits the back of the net past an outstretched Glover. This is Hemed’s fourth goal of the season, and Ball’s first assist.
45’ - Maclaren gets his 13th goal (1-2)
After Wellington coughs up the ball in their half, Melbourne’s Connor Metcalfe gets the ball up to a surging Maclaren on the left side who bangs home his thirteenth goal of the season – extending his lead in the golden boot race and moving into 2nd-equal place on the A-League’s all-time goals scored list.
Half-time – Wellington Phoenix 1, Melbourne City 2
A lively first half ends with plenty of chances by both teams but Melbourne in front 2-1 thanks to the brilliance of Maclaren just before the half-time whistle. Despite the two goals conceded, the Phoenix have shown solid defence; Josh Laws, James McGarry and Payne with some top-level defending and Sail with several strong denials.
Possession was evenly shared but Melbourne had 17 goal attempts (5 on target, 3 big chances created) versus 9 for Wellington (2 on target) and five blocked shots apiece.
55’ - Sail with the spectacular save
A dangerous two-on-one situation for Melbourne saw both Noone and Maclaren sprinting towards the Phoenix goal; Sail making an instinctive save on Noone’s attempt with his right hand, in the defensive play of the match.
57’ - Davila evens things up (2-2)
Wellington shows plenty of heart to again equalise; this time a curling left-footed strike by Davila at the centre of the box, on another assist by Ball. This is Davila’s six goal of the season, with the captain rewarded for his outstanding play up to this point.
66’ - Sail big saves
Sail makes another huge save, this time from the right side at a difficult angle on a Maclaren goal attempt. A follow-up attempt from Berenguer, from outside the box barely a minute later, is again soundly saved by Sail.
83’ - Tilio puts Melbourne back in front (2-3)
Barely two minutes after subbing on for Craig Noone, a fresh Marco Tilio is in the right place at the right time - scoring a close range header on a cross by Metcalfe to register his first goal of the season, putting the visitors ahead in the 83rd minute.
Full Time – Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne City 3
A tense match comes to a close with Melbourne squeezing out the win, and the stats would back up the frenzied nature of this match; 32 goal attempts to City (11 on target, 11 blocked, 6 big chances created), with the defence of Sail, Payne and others the reason why Melbourne were unable to capitalise on their many opportunities.
Wellington will take consolation in the fact their team played hard and saw another strong effort from their trio of Hemed, Davila and Ball to make this match a close one.
Following the match, coach Ufuk Talay would offer his perspective on the game.
“We created opportunities to score, they created opportunities too and they capitalised with the three goals and we only scored two – so we walk away with zero points,” said Talay.
“We were down twice and we came back twice, which is great for the boys and they showed great attitude and good spirit to get back into the game – but then we conceded that third goal so it’s very disappointing.
“I believe we’re a good team and we’ve got some good players and we play good football; I think Oli [Sail] was our best player, he kept us in the game tonight and we’re lucky to have Ulises [Davila] at the Phoenix and I think he’s a great addition to the A-League and probably the best player in the competition.”
The Phoenix stay at WIN Stadium for their next match, facing rivals Western United for the first time on Sunday 11 April.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 14.Alex RUFER, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Tomer HEMED, 20.Oliver SAIL (gk), 21.Joshua LAWS 23.Clayton LEWIS
Melbourne City FC squad: 1.Tom GLOVER (gk), 4.Nuno REIS, 7.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 9.Jamie MACLAREN, 10.Florin BERENGUER-BOHRER, 11.Craig NOONE, 13.Nathaniel ATKINSON, 15.Andrew NABBOUT, 18.Connor METCALFE, 19.Ben GARUCCIO, 22.Curtis GOOD
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
45’ ON 8.Cameron DEVLIN OFF 14.Alex RUFER
45’ ON 18.Ben WAINE OFF 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO
81’ ON 13.Charles LOKOLI-NGOY OFF 17.Tomer HEMED
86’ ON 15.Mirza MURATOVIC OFF 23.Clayton LEWIS
Melbourne City FC Substitutions
21’ ON 2.Scott GALLOWAY OFF 13.Nathaniel ATKINSON
62’ ON 4.Nuno REIS OFF 20.Adrian LUNA
80’ ON 17.Stefan COLAKOVSKI OFF 15.Andrew NABBOUT
80’ ON 23.Marco TILIO OFF 11.Craig NOONE
17’ Curtis GOOD (Melbourne City)
39’ Tomer HEMED (Wellington Phoenix)
45’ Jamie MACLAREN (Melbourne City)
56’ Ulises DAVILA (Wellington Phoenix)
83’ Marco TILLO (Melbourne City)
Next Match details
Match Week 15: Wellington Phoenix versus Western United, WIN Stadium, Sunday 11 April 2021, kick-off at 7. 05pm AEDT (9.05pm NZ time)