The Wellington Phoenix have dominated at home against Western United, beating their rivals 2-0 and keeping their second straight clean sheet of the season.
Wearing a one-off purple-and-green charity strip in support of the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand, the Phoenix had what Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay called their “best half of the season” in the first half – with an aggressive Wellington attempting a stunning 11 shots (7 on target) versus none from Western United.
Goals by newly-crowned PFA Player of the Month Liberato Cacace in the first half and a crowd-pleasing last minute goal from David ball in the second, ensured that a Wellington win was never really in doubt – and with Western United Filip Kurto’s multiple goal-saving efforts preventing the Phoenix’s score from being much higher.
The match started with Ulises Davila attempting a curling shot on his first touch but unable to find the net; the early aggression a sign of things to come. Subsequent attempts by Gary Hooper, Reno Piscopo and Ball were all denied by Kurto, before a long-range Piscopo attempt clipped the outside of the post.
Cacace’s goal at 30 minutes – his second of the season - came off of a brilliant assist by Davila and put Phoenix up 1-0 as the rain began to pour down at Sky Stadium. After Steven Taylor had an acrobatic attempt at goal that was narrowly saved by Kurto, Hooper thought he had bagged himself a goal; but his goal off a deflection was ruled out for offside.
The first half saw Phoenix leading 1-0, dominating possession and every facet of the game – with only the spectacular goal-saving efforts from Kurto preventing the home team from racking up more goals.
The second half started with Western United making adjustments and pressing the attack, finally getting their first shot on goal three minutes in - albeit unsuccessful.
A blinding run by Cacace ended up in a shot by Callum McCowatt that was again saved by Kurto. Hooper had another opportunity a minute later but was swamped by Kurto at the edge of the box.
Ball’s goal in the final minute of normal time was spectacular not just for the shot, but for the assist – off of a massive clearance by Stefan Marinovic that marks the first goalkeeper assist in the Hyundai A-League since 2015. The stunning goal put Wellington up 2-0 and gave them the deciding edge in their third and final match against Western United this season.
Wellington now extend their unbeaten home run to 8 matches (7W, 1D), meaning they have not lost at home since October of last year. The final match statistics showed just how dominant the Phoenix side were on the night; with 21 shots on goal to Western United’s 5, along with 557 passes to 436 and with Western United conceding 23 fouls to Wellington’s 12.
The win moves the Phoenix up into second place on equal points with second-placed Perth Glory, with the club not playing again until 8 March when they take on Central Coast Mariners at Central Coast Stadium.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 3.Luke DEVERE, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 6.Tim PAYNE, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 13.Liberato CACACE, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 88. Gary HOOPER
Western United Starting XI
1.Filip KURTO (gk), 4.Andrew DURANTE, 6. Tomoki IMAI, 8.Panagiotis KONE, 10.Steven LUSTICA, 11.Connor PAIN, 12.Dario JERTEC, 18.Besart BERISHA, 19.Josh RISDON, 23.Alessandro DIAMANTI (c), 28.Oskar Dillon
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
60’ ON 21.Callum MCCOWATT OFF 7.Reno PISCOPO
67’ ON 14.Alex RUFER OFF 8.Cameron DEVLIN
80’ ON 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO OFF 88.Gary HOOPER
Western United Substitutions
30’ ON 14.Max Burgess OFF 8.Panagiotis KONE
67’ ON 27.Jerry SKOTADIS OFF 12.Dario JERTEC
82’ ON 5.Dylan PIERIAS OFF 23.Alessandro DIAMANTI
29’ Liberato CACACE (Wellington Phoenix)
90+1 David BALL (Wellington Phoenix)
Next Match details
Round 22 – Wellington Phoenix versus Central Coast Mariners at Central Coast Stadium, Gosford; Sunday 8 March 2020, 6pm NZT