The Wellington Phoenix’ love affair with Auckland continued on Saturday night when they beat reigning champions and Hyundai A-League pacesetters Melbourne Victory 2-0 at QBE Stadium.
The Phoenix have never been beaten in Auckland and among the scalps they have taken is that of English Premier League side West Ham United.
Beating West Ham was immensely satisfying for the Ernie Merrick coached team but seeing off Victory was even more important given the licence problems the Phoenix have been having with the FFA.
The almost 11,000 crowd that turned out must surely have made the FFA “metric masters” sit up and take notice, and the manner in which they disposed of the highly-rated Victory was just as impressive.
The only blemish on a big night came in the form of the QEB pitch which had little grass and was uneven, but the Phoenix couldn’t be blamed for that.
It didn’t take away from the spectacle and in a hectic first half the Phoenix took the game to the visitors with some high class counter-attacks and it was from one such attack that Roy Krishna, who is becoming a cult figure for the fans, gave them the lead in the 18th minute.
A lovely ball over the defence found Krishna and just when it looked as if the ball had got away from him the Fijian striker regained control and scored with a firm shot between Victory keeper Danny Vukovic and the post.
Right on halftime Roly Bonevacia, who had another fine game, scored from close range to put his team 2-0 up.
An altered Victory formation at times caused problems for the Phoenix in the second spell, but the defence, superbly marshalled by the always reliable Andrew Durante, held firm.
When the defence was breached goalkeeper Glen Moss, playing his 100th game for the Phoenix, was in top form and ensured he was the first Phoenix player to celebrate his milestone with a win.
Asked to comment on the pitch after complaints about it from his counterpart Kevin Muscat, Merrick said it wasn’t a problem.
“The pitch was fine; the ball rolled pretty well. Perhaps there wasn’t enough grass on it but it was okay because you have to adapt to different situations,” Merrick said.
“It was a good game and we played well.
“We wanted to make sure we shut down the right players such as Khalfallah and Barbarouses and we did that well.
“Our midfield was rock solid, especially in the first half, and up front Mikey McGlinchey, Roly (Bonevacia) and Roy Krishna, who was on fire, did really well.
“Roy is getting better and better. He scored one and set one up for Roly.
“The crowd was also outstanding. They were very vocal and provided a great atmosphere which our players enjoyed.
“What was especially satisfying was the way the players responded to a difficult run of games against four top teams all away from Wellington.
“Next up is another tough away game against Brisbane Roar in Cairns but we will be looking to win that one as well.”