The Wellington Phoenix have claimed an important 3-0 victory tonight against Western United, in their first match at Wellington's Sky Stadium in 433 days.
In front of a record-setting crowd of 24,105 people packing out Sky Stadium, the home side put on a dazzling show - starting with a Clayton Lewis strike in the first half, followed by goals from Reno Piscopo and Tomer Hemed after half-time.
The win sees Wellington now owning an eight-match unbeaten streak (4W, 4D) as it continues to push for a top six spot; the Nix also keeping its fifth clean sheet of the season as part of a dominating defensive display.
Wellington’s line-up saw only one change from last week; a returning Steven Taylor in for Joshua Laws, with the seasoned defender also donning the captain’s armband for the first time this season.
Also included on the bench for the first time this season was Phoenix Reserves player Ben Old.
For Western United, Besart Berisha and Alessandro Diamanti were both inserted into the starting line-up for this must-win match, with Andrew Durante – set to retire at season’s end – handed the captaincy in a fitting tribute for the ex-Phoenix defender.
Here’s the key moments from this match:
10’ – Hemed’s strike on target
Cameron Devlin delivered a cross into Tomer Hemed outside the box; his attempt from the left hand side on target but saved by Western United’s goalkeeper Ryan Scott.
21’ – Hemed Again
Hemed has another crack on goal; this time attempting a strong cross from outside the box on the right side, which just glances wide of the goal.
38’ – Goal: Lewis bangs one home for the Nix (1-0)
Clayton Lewis gets the Nix on the board first, taking a pass from Steven Taylor, finding space and launching a powerful strike into goal; glancing off a Western United defender in the process.
This is Clayton’s second goal of the season – made in his first ever appearance at Sky Stadium – and Taylor’s first assist.
40’ – Hemed with the diving header
David Ball gets the ball and sprints up field on the right hand side, passing to Fenton who in turn delivers a cross into Hemed in the centre of the box; his diving header on target by saved by Scott.
Half Time – Wellington Phoenix 1, Western United 0
The first half ends with Wellington in the lead and dominating in all facets of the game; Lewis’ goal undoubtedly invigorating the Phoenix, as is the boisterous crowd of 24,000+.
An impressive Nix backline, in particular the play of Taylor and Tim Payne, saw the visitors not truly threaten on goal during the half – Wellington now looking to maintain the pressure in the last 45 minutes.
53’ – Waine header threatens on goal
After Dylan Pierias had his shot blocked by Steven Taylor in front of goal, Piscopo would deliver a cross to Ben Waine from a corner situation – Waine’s header blocked by the Western United defence.
57’ – GOAL: Piscopo strikes (2-0)
Piscopo takes a pass from Sam Sutton and evades a pair of Western United defenders, launching a shot from the top left corner which hits the back of the net past an outstretched Scott.
This is Piscopo’s second goal of the season; a deserved reward for his constant activity with the ball on the attacking end, and also Sutton’s second assist.
63’ – GOAL: Hemed with the header (3-0)
Wellington strikes again six minutes later – this time, Tomer Hemed receiving a pass from Louis Fenton on a cross, with his header is on target from very close range to put the home side up 3-0.
This is Hemed’s eight goal of the season and his third in the past two matches; it is also Fenton’s first assist.
72’ – Ball almost makes it 4-0
Piscopo sets up David Ball, the latter taking a punt from outside the box which is agonisingly close but misses to the right. At this point, Wellington are absolutely dominating the half, spurred on by a raucous crowd of Phoenix supporters.
83’ – Old takes the field
Not long after the shirts come flying off in the Yellow Fever zone at the eight minute mark, Old makes his first official appearance for the Wellington Phoenix. This is important for the Nix given the Club’s focus on developing young players; and being able to tap into the talent in the Phoenix Reserves is a luxury they have not previously had this season.
Full Time – Wellington Phoenix 3, Western United 0
The stats tell a story of a Phoenix squad in stunning form as it claims its eighth victory of the season and a much-needed three points – moving them into seventh place on the A-League ladder as a result.
Wellington enjoyed 10 shots on target to Western United’s five (including four from Hemed and three from Piscopo); 28 crosses to the opposition’s eight and six corners to three.
Following the match, Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay thanked the crowd for their part in the win.
“For us, it’s been a long time coming – I think the boys showed a great performance to the crowd, there’s a lot of belief in this squad and the support for us tonight was immense,” said Talay.
“We dominated the ball tonight, we had a lot of the ball and they tried to hit us in transition but I thought we were in total control of the game from start to finish.
“We knew we were going to get great support tonight, that there was going to be a lot of fans out there; it’s something that we haven’t had all season, so the boys just had to focus and go out there and win three points.”
The Phoenix travel on Monday to Australia to take on Western Sydney Wanderers at Bankwest Stadium on Wed 26 May, before returning to New Zealand for their match against Perth Glory at Eden Park on Sunday 30 May.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 6.Tim PAYNE, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Tomer HEMED, 18.Ben WAINE, 19.Sam SUTTON, 20.Oliver SAIL, 23.Clayton LEWIS, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c)
Western United FC squad: 3.Brendan HAMILL, 4.Andrew DURANTE, 5.Dylan PIERIAS, 6.Tomoki IMAI, 7.Besart BERISHA, 8.Lachlan WALES, 11.Connor PAIN, 21.Sebastian PASQUALI, 22.Tomislav USKOK, 23.Alessandro DIAMANTI (c), 30.Ryan SCOTT (gk)
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
80’ ON 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO OFF 17.Tomer HEMED
83’ ON 41.Ben OLD OFF 7.Reno PISCOPO
88’ ON 14.Alex RUFER OFF 8.Cameron DEVLIN
Western United Substitutions
66’ ON 10.Steven LUSTICA OFF 21.Sebastian PASQUALI
73’ ON 31.Adisu BAYEW OFF 7.Besart BERISHA
87’ ON 9.Kaine SHEPPARD OFF 8.Lachlan WALES
87’ ON 34.Iker GUARROTXENA OFF 23.Alessandro DIAMANTI
38’ Clayton LEWIS (Wellington Phoenix)
57’ Reno PISCOPO (Wellington Phoenix)
63’ Tomer HEMED (Wellington Phoenix)
Next Match details
Match Week 22: Wellington Phoenix versus Western Sydney Wanderers, Bankwest Stadium in Sydney, Wednesday 26 May 2021, kick-off at 7.05pm AEDT (9.05 NZ time)