The Wellington Phoenix take on opponents Adelaide United tonight in a clash of two of the top three goal-scoring teams in the competition, with a win tonight allowing the Nix to move into the top six for the first time this season.
Both sides come into this match with three game undefeated streaks; Adelaide pulling out a come-from-behind 2-2 draw in their previous match against Sydney FC, and Wellington earning a 1-1 draw against Western United on Thursday.
This game marks the Phoenix’s third match in seven days as part of a hectic seven-day schedule, which saw the squad travel to Perth then Tasmania for its away matches, before returning to Wollongong on Friday to prepare for tonight’s match.
The Nix will bring in an unchanged 20-man squad from their last match, but still await the return of key midfielder Reno Piscopo due to a lengthy injury layoff.
The team’s three-match unbeaten run has seen Wellington turn to some of its younger players for key contributions, and they haven’t disappointed; 19-year-old Ben Waine scoring three goals in three matches and fellow youngster Sam Sutton performing well at left back during this stretch.
Waine has also provided a much-needed efficiency on goal for the Nix, boasting a 50% conversion rate this season (five goals from 10 attempts, with a 60% on target rate) to lead the team; two of his goals have come outside the box, part of the Phoenix's competition-leading eight goals scored in this area.
Jaushua Sotirio has also contributed during this run with two goals and multiple blinding runs at goal, while goalkeeper Oli Sail – currently leading the competition in goals saved per game – continues his run of dominance between the sticks.
One player to watch in this match will be Clayton Lewis; the midfielder quietly having a solid showing in his first A-League season, having shown the ability to both be a defensive presence and to keep the opposition on their toes with his powerful shot attempts at goal.
Meanwhile, Adelaide United currently sit in third place on the ladder and will count on striker Tomi Juric to deliver the goods; the 29-year-old scoring goals in each of his last three matches, with seven in total this season to lead his team.
He will be supported by Craig Goodwin – who has five goals and five assists in only nine matches played this season, and leads the competition with 10.4 crosses per game – and their captain Stefan Mauk (six goals). Adelaide will also continue to rely on Joe Gauci in goal; the 20-year-old starting the last seven matches after No.1 goalkeeper James Delianov went out with a hamstring injury.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay says that Adelaide United are a dangerous team to face, as evidenced by their third-place standing.
“[Adelaide] have been playing some good football, they started off a little sketchy but then they got a bit of form and had a good run - and that builds a lot of confidence and momentum within their team,” said Talay.
“For us, it’s a must-win game for us at WIN Stadium in Wollongong; it’ll be a tough game, there’s no easy games especially with a short turnaround after the Western United game – but the players will always go out there and give it their best, and the focus is on us and what we do.”
This match is also a special one for the Phoenix as it takes place on ANZAC Day, with the club holding an on-field ceremony prior to kick-off that will feature a recitation of The Ode, the Last Post and a rendition of both the Australian and New Zealand National Anthems.
Coach Talay says that it is an honour for him and the players to be playing a match on such an important day.
“It’s very important, we’re a team from New Zealand and ANZAC Day is a big day for us to remember those who served for our country – it’s a great occasion, I think it will be a great day and I hope we get a good turnout for it as well.”
The Wellington Phoenix take on Adelaide United at WIN Stadium in Wollongong tonight at 4.10pm AEDT (6.10pm NZT).
Did you know?
- Waine Train: With his goal against Western United on Thursday, Ben Waine became the youngest Phoenix player to score five A-League goals in a season, doing so at age 19; Sarpreet Singh also scored five goals in the 2018/19 season but had turned 20 by the time he scored his fifth (source: Jason Pine).
- Fallen Foul: Wellington Phoenix are currently the most fouled team in the competition (14.6 fouls per game average), echoing the 2019/20 season (1st with 15.3 fouls earnt); Ulises Davila the club’s most fouled player with 51 total fouls earnt this season.
- Ball Scores, We Win: The Wellington Phoenix are undefeated (9W, 1D) when David Ball scores a goal, dating back to the start of last season; the only Phoenix player to achieve this feat during this time.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 2.Liam McGING, 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12.Matthew RIDENTON, 13.Charles LOKOLI-NGOY, 14.Alex RUFER, 15.Mirza MURATOVIC, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Tomer HEMED, 18.Ben WAINE, 19.Sam SUTTON, 20.Oliver SAIL, 21.Joshua LAWS, 23.Clayton LEWIS, 27.Steven TAYLOR
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 2.Liam McGING (promoted), 15.Mirza MURATOVIC (promoted)
Unavailable: 3.Luke DEVERE (knee injury, 4 weeks), 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI (Achilles injury, 1 week), 7.Reno PISCOPO (injury, 2 weeks)
Adelaide United squad: 2.Michael MARRONE, 3.George TIMOTHEOU, 4.Ryan STRAIN, 6.Louis D’ARRIGO, 7.Ryan KITTO, 8.Stefan MAUK (c), 9.Tomi JURIC, 11.Craig GOODWIN, 18.Joe CALETTI, 19.Yaya DUKULY, 23.Jordan ELSEY, 24.Pacifique NIYONGABIRE, 26.Ben HALLORAN, 27.Josh CAVALLO, 28. JUANDE, 29.Kusini YENGI, 33.Dakota OCHSENHAM (gk), 34.Yared ABETEW, 35.Al Hassan TOURE, 46.Joe GAUCI (gk)
**2-4 to be omitted**
Ins: 19.Yaya DUKULY (promoted), 29.Kusini YENGI (returns from injury)
Unavailable: 1.James DELIANOV (hamstring), 16.Nathan KONSTANDOPOULOS (knee), 21.Javi LÓPEZ (knee), 22.Michael JAKOBSEN (hamstring)