The Wellington Phoenix have put on a show in front of a 15,347 strong Auckland crowd - beating Melbourne City FC 1-0 to remain unbeaten at Eden Park and delivering one of their best all-round performances of the season.
With Melbourne City putting pressure on the Phoenix in the first 10 minutes, it was up to goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic to make some early saves, with Phoenix then going on the attack; a fantastic pass to David Ball from Ulises Davila came agonisingly close to a goal, only to be cleared off the line at the last possible moment by a sliding Melbourne City defender.
Drama ensued at 30 minutes, after a free kick from Reno Piscopo deflected off of Cameron Devlin only to be tapped in by midfielder Matti Steinmann – making a triumphant return after being out the past two matches - from 6 yards out. VAR was called in, and after an anxious wait the goal was disallowed to the crowd’s dismay.
Half-time saw both teams at 0-0, and with the Phoenix displaying some offensive brilliance and tight passing across the pitch – thanks in part to the steadying presence of Steinmann in the midfield. With momentum squarely on their side, it seemed like a matter of time until Wellington got on the scoreboard.
The second half started much the same as the first, with Marinovic making some masterful saves against both a long-range strike from Craig Noone and an attempt from Adrian Luna off of a Noone cross. Defensive heroics from Luke DeVere and Steven Taylor on Melbourne City’s James Maclaren, also highlighted the Phoenix’s ability to shut down the Hyundai A-League’s second-leading goal scorer for long stretches of the match.
Then at 58 minutes, it was Wellington’s turn to finally be rewarded for their brilliant attacking. A crowd-pleasing run by Gary Hooper led to a beautiful cross to Ball, who smashed in from just inside the box.
With Phoenix up 1-0, the home team continued to press the attack – highlighted by a strong attack from Ulises Davila that landed in Melbourne City goalkeeper, Thomas Glover’s hands.
A sliding tackle foul on Piscopo saw him forced to leave the field at 67 minutes, with Devlin later joining him on the sidelines after suffering a knock of his own.
With the match on the line, Melbourne had a last gasp opportunity to equalise – only to have Marinovic make a spectacular save to preserve the win. Phoenix win 1-0, keeping their third clean sheet of the season and maintaining their unbeaten run at Eden Park (4W, 3D).
Wellington remain in fifth place, equal points to Adelaide United and with a five point buffer over 6th placed Brisbane Roar. The team will now assess the on-field injuries to Piscopo and Devlin as they prepare for their next march – back at home in Sky Stadium in less than a week, against their rivals Western United for the Mental Health Round.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 3.Luke DEVERE, 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 13.Liberato CACACE, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 88. Gary HOOPER
Melbourne City FC Starting XI
1.Tom GLOVER (gk), 3.Scott JAMIESON, 6.Josh BRILLANTE, 7.Rostyn GRIFFITHS, 9.Jamie MACLAREN, 10.Florin BERENGUER 11.Craig NOONE, 13.Nathaniel ATKINSON, 14.Markel SUSAETA, 20.Adrian LUNA, 22.Curtis GOOD
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
62’ ON 12. Brandon WILSON OFF 4. Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI
67’ ON 21. Callum MCCOWATT OFF 7. Reno PISCOPO
86’ ON 14. Alex RUFER OFF 8. Cameron DEVLIN
Perth Glory Substitutions
67’ ON 19. Lachlan WALES OFF 10. Florin BERENGUER
73’ ON 49. Stefan COLAKOVSKI OFF 11. Craig NOONE
78’ ON 30. Moudi NAJJAR OFF 14. Markel SUSAETA
58’ David BALL (Wellington Phoenix)
Next Match Details
Round 20 – Wellington Phoenix versus Western United at Sky Stadium, Wellington; Friday 21 Feb 2020, 7.15pm NZT