The Wellington Phoenix have vaulted into second place on the Hyundai A-League ladder with a one-all draw with Adelaide United tonight, thanks to a Jaushua Sotirio equaliser in the second half after the Reds struck first.
WATCH: Highlights of WELvADL
Following the team’s win over Perth, Wellington Coach Ufuk Talay had hinted that he might rest key players for this match, which came at the tail end of a gruelling run of three matches in eight days.
Accordingly, the starting line-up saw regulars Luke DeVere, Cameron Devlin and David Ball replaced with Brandon Wilson, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi, Sam Sutton and Callan Elliot – the latter two players all making their Hyundai A-League starting debuts as the Nix fielded their youngest line-up this season. Both Sutton (18 years) and Cacace (19 years) are also proud products of the Wellington Phoenix Academy, showcasing the talent pathway the club has built up over the past several years.
The match started with some patient build-up play by the Nix as they looked to unlock the Adelaide defence. The Red’s Lachlan Brook was the first to look for his opportunity on goal, attempting a shot from outside the box which was comfortably saved by Wellington’s Stefan Marinovic.
After Sutton’s attempt on the 13 minute mark – off of a great pass from Alex Rufer - was off target, a retaliatory strike from Adelaide’s Ben Halloran was again intercepted by Marinovic.
Sutton and Cacace were unable to convert their chances at goal, before a headed attempt by Kristian Opseth on the 40 minute mark was once again expertly saved by Marinovic; the Nix goalkeeper making his presence felt.
Steven Taylor blocked a Adelaide attempt to bring the first half to a close at nil-all, with the Nix showcasing their strong passing game and receiving solid contributions from both Rufer and Marinovic; the former a stabilising presence in the midfield and the latter making a pair of world-class saves to keep the Reds from getting on the scoresheet.
The second half saw the Phoenix come out with an adjusted line-up; Ulises Dávila in for Gary Hooper and Taylor off (for the first time this season) for Liam McGing. The Nix were instantly aggressive on the attack, with Jaushua Sotirio threatening early around the Adelaide goal and Libby Cacace attempting a strike that was narrowly blocked – the Nix attempting five goals in the first ten minutes of the second half alone.
Yet it was Adelaide who were first to strike at the 60 minute mark; a strong header from Kristian Ospeth off an assist by Halloran to put Adelaide up 1-0.
But the Phoenix would retaliate less than five minutes later. After a strong run into Reds territory, Sotirio saw his initial goal attempt blocked by Adelaide’s goalkeeper Paul Izzo, but showed great presence of mind to recover and slot the ball home to tie the match at one all – giving Sotirio his fourth goal of the season.
The Phoenix continued with their punishing attack, with a spectacular goal attempt by Liberato Cacace barely saved by a fully outstretched Izzo, and a pair of chances by Ulises Dávila unable to connect.
Wellington would have a chance to go ahead at the 86 minute mark when Adelaide’s Mohamed Toure was penalised for tripping, giving the Phoenix a penalty. But Davila’s penalty attempt was stopped by Izzo and the match would end with both sides earning a draw – the final score not at all indicative of Wellington’s second half dominance, where they owned possession and racked up 15 attempts on goal to Adelaide’s five.
Following the match, Coach Talay complimented the effort of the younger players and the team’s second half performance.
“The boys played well especially in the second half, I think we showed the depth in our squad tonight – every knows their job and knows their role which is great.”
“It was always the idea that we rotate and rest our players, especially having to play three games in eight days; we were able to rest some players so they can be fresh again for Western Sydney.”
The Phoenix will next take on Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday 31 July, at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 12.Brandon WILSON, 13.Liberato CACACE, 14.Alex RUFER, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 32.Sam SUTTON, 88.Gary HOOPER
Adelaide United Starting XI
4.Ryan STRAIN, 6.Stefan MAUK, 7.Ryan KITTO, 8.Riley McGREE, 11.Kristian OPSETH, 18.Lachlan BROOK, 20.Paul IZZO (gk), 22.Michael JAKOBSEN (c), 23.Jordan ELSEY, 26.Ben HALLORAN, 42.Taras GOMULKA
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
47’ ON 10.Ulises DAVILA OFF 88.Gary HOOPER
47’ ON 2.Liam MCGING OFF 27.Steven TAYLOR
61’ ON 21.Callum MCCOWATT OFF 32.Sam SUTTON
71’ ON 31.Ben WAINE OFF 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO
89’ ON 16.Louis FENTON OFF 17.Callan ELLIOT
Adelaide United Substitutions
68’ ON 49.Mohamed TOURE OFF 18.Lachlan BROOK
68’ ON 27.Louis D’ARRIGO OFF 11.Kristian OPSETH
79’ ON 14.George BLACKWOOD OFF 6.Stefan MAUK
60’ Kristian OSPETH (Adelaide United)
65’ Jaushua SOTIRIO (Wellington Phoenix)
Next Match details
Round 29 – Wellington Phoenix versus Western Sydney Wanderers at Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta; Friday 31 July 2020, 9.30pm NZT