Phoenix bury bogey team

IT’S taken five attempts but the Wellington Phoenix have finally broke their hoodoo against the Central Coast Mariners, beating the Hyundai A-League 2007/08 premiers 1-0 in a 2008 Pre-Season Cup clash in Wellington on Sunday.

IT-S taken five attempts but the Wellington Phoenix have finally broken their hoodoo against the Central Coast Mariners, beating the Hyundai A-League 2007/08 premiers 1-0 in a 2008 Pre-Season Cup clash in Wellington on Sunday.

The Wellington team had previously lost all four encounters with the Mariners but buried their bogey team 1-0 with an impressive all-round performance at Westpac Stadium. A well-taken headed goal by Brazilian whiz Daniel made the difference - the goal especially emotional for the Wellington fans- favourite after the recent death of his grandfather.

On the far post as Leo Bertos bamboozled the Mariners- defence and sent in a pinpoint cross, Daniel nodded the ball past impressive Mariners goalkeeper Danny Vukovic to break the deadlock in the 72nd minute and thrill the 4853-strong crowd.

It was just reward for the Phoenix, who dominated throughout and could well have scored several more but for the lack of a killer instinct in the first half in particular and the heroics of Vukovic.

Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert was pleased with the result but not reading too much into it.

“For the players it-s great. They-ve worked hard for three months and the performance was probably a fair result for us and a good indication of where we-re at three weeks out from the start of the league.

“It is only a pre-season match but the signs are encouraging. Admittedly our conversion rate wasn-t flash but the number of opportunities we manufactured was pleasing. I wouldn-t mind getting that many chances against them in a league fixture.”

The Phoenix used the roving trio of Daniel, Leilei Gao and Bertos in behind lone striker Shane Smeltz and the experiment yielded positive results, with a swag of clear-cut scoring chances created.

“I thought they were very good,” Herbert said. “When you get them on the ball with their pace and their ability to get at defenders they can cause problems. This was the first real test for those three guys together but the signs are encouraging.”

Another pleasing aspect of the match for the Phoenix was the performance of their new back four - skipper Andrew Durante, fellow centre back Jon McKain, left back Tony Lochhead and right back Vince Lia.

Durante said the Phoenix-s defensive frailties from season one in the Hyundai A-League had motivated the team to tighten things up at the back this season. Outside of a couple of half-chances for the Mariners, the Phoenix-s back four was mostly untroubled.

“We-ve put the emphasis at training on defence and we-ve worked hard on that. I think the combinations we have at the back are excellent.”

Daniel scoring the winner was a special moment for the Phoenix.

“We wanted to make this game a special one,” Durante said. “Daniel-s grandfather passed away recently and Daniel had a few words to the team before the game that really lifted the boys. It was fantastic that he scored the goal.”

The Phoenix-s next 2008 Pre-Season Cup match is against the Queensland Roar at Stockland Park on the Sunshine Coast on Sunday, July 27.

Round one, 2008 Pre-Season Cup

Wellington Phoenix FC v Central Coast Mariners FC

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Daniel 72-) Central Coast Mariners 0

Date: Sunday 20 July 2008 Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington Referee: Michael Hester Crowd: 4853

Wellington Phoenix: 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. Karl DODD, 7. Leo BERTOS, 9. Shane SMELTZ, 10. Michael FERRANTE, 11. DANIEL, 17. Vince LIA (13. Troy HEARFIELD 46-), 20. Glen MOSS (gk), 21. Leilei GAO (8, Vaughan COVENY 88-), 24. Andrew DURANTE (captain).

Substitutes not used: 1. Mark PASTON (gk), 12. Richard JOHNSON.

Yellow cards: Troy Hearfield 75-, Karl Dodd 83-).

Central Coast Mariners: 2. Andre GUMPRECHT, 5. Bradley PORTER, 7. John HUTCHINSON, 8. Dean HEFFERNAN (25. Nik MRDJA 78-), 10. Adrian CACERES, 11. Dylan MacALLISTER, 15. Andrew CLARK, 17. Matthew OSMAN (24. David D-APUZZO 68-), 18. Alex WILKINSON, 20. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 22. Sasho PETROVSKI.

Substitutes not used: 21. Ahmad ELRICH, 30. Andrew REDMAYNE (gk).

Yellow cards: Andrew Clark 22-, Dylan MacAllister 59-.