A valiant second-half effort from a 10-man Wellington Phoenix squad was not enough to hold off Western Sydney last night, as the Wanderers picked up an unlikely 1-0 win at Bankwest Stadium.
WATCH: Highlights of WSWvWEL
After a scoreless first half in which the Phoenix started off strong, Wanderers sub Kwame Yeboah scored on the 74 minute mark after Nix defender Luke DeVere collected two yellow cards. Reduced to 10 men, the Phoenix played some of their best attacking play of the match in an attempt to equalise but were unable to convert down the stretch.
With a full-strength squad available to Coach Ufuk Talay, he elected to start Ulises Dávila for the first time in the season re-start while also welcoming back Luke DeVere, David Ball and Cameron Devlin - who had all sat out versus Adelaide for rest reasons.
Phoenix controlled possession in the early going, with several chances on goal in the first 20 minutes, the most agonising an attempt by David Ball on three minutes that struck the inside of the woodwork over a fully outstretched Tristan Prendergast.
The Phoenix kept pushing forward and putting pressure on the Wanderers goal early; a beautiful curling ball from Liberato Cacace into Gary Hooper at seven mins couldn’t connect, and minutes later a perfect cross from Ball into Louis Fenton was deflected.
An accident on the 20 minute mark saw Nicolai Muller suffer an inadvertent blow to the head, resulting in him being stretchered off the field; Fenton also suffering a bloody nose in the play.
The teams traded chances leading up to the break with a free kick on 35 minutes seeing a volley from McCowatt caught by Wanderer’s goalkeeper Prendergast, then Mitchell Duke’s attempt from just outside the box – their first genuine attempt on goal of the match - landing safely into the hands of Stefan Marinovic.
With the first half coming to a close at nil-all, the Phoenix looked to be in control of the match thanks to the play of Ball and Devlin in particular; both playing with noticeable energy in their return to the starting line-up.
Both sides continued to probe the defence in the second half, until a second yellow issued to DeVere saw the Phoenix reduced to 10 men on the 65 minute mark. The Wanderers would use the advantage to score ten minutes later, thanks to a header from Kwame Yeboah – who had come on as a replacement for Muller - just outside the box on the 74 minute mark, putting Western Sydney up 1-0.
The late introduction of Jaushua Sotirio and Reno Piscopo looked to breathe new life into the Phoenix squad, as they attacked hard and had several chances down the stretch – including a trio of corners as full time approached. But the Nix were unable to equalise and Western Sydney would walk away victors in this match, with a 1-0 win to move them into eighth place on the ladder.
Coach Talay praised the Phoenix’s fighting spirit while down to 10 men.
“Disappointed with the result - we started off well and we had the opportunity with hitting the post. We came to life with the sending off and could've come away with something.'
“Obviously it doesn't help going down to 10 men but the boys embraced it and they pushed hard to get the equaliser - I thought we were a little bit unfortunate with a couple of corners where a couple of saves were made but that's football sometimes.”
Talay says the Phoenix will continue to push for second place - currently occupied by Melbourne City - with two matches remaining.
“We've got two more games and they've (Melbourne City) got three games to go and anything is possible in football, so we just need to win our games in front of us and whatever happens, happens.''
The Phoenix will next take on Brisbane Roar on Wednesday 5 August, 8pm at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta. They’ll do so without defender Luke DeVere, who will sit out against his old team due to suspension, but will welcome back Tim Payne from his four match suspension.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 3.Luke DEVERE, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 13.Liberato CACACE, 16.Louis FENTON, 21.Callum MCCOWATT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 88.Gary HOOPER
Adelaide United Starting XI
4.Dylan MCGOWAN, 5.Daniel GEORGIEVKSI, 6.Matthew JURMAN, 7.Mitchell DUKE (c), 8.Jordan O’DOHERTY, 9.Nicolai MULLER, 10.Simon COX, 17.Keanu BACCUS, 33.Tate RUSSELL, 34.Patrick ZIEGLER, 50.Tristan PRENDERGAST (GK)
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
68’ ON 2.Liam McGING OFF 88.Gary HOOPER
68’ ON 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO OFF 10.Ulises DAVILA
74’ ON 14.Alex RUFER OFF 8.Cameron DEVLIN
74’ ON 7.Reno PISCOPO OFF 21.Callum MCCOWATT
86’ ON 31.Ben WAINE OFF 5.Matti STEINMANN
Adelaide United Substitutions
27’ ON 27.Kwame YEBOAH OFF 9.Nicolai MULLER
45’ ON 19.Pirmin SCHWEGLER OFF 8.Jordan O’DOHERTY
81’ 11.Bruce KAMAU OFF 33.Tate RUSSELL
81’ 13.Tass MOURDOUKOUTAS OFF 34.Patrick ZIEGLER
81’ 35.Mohamed ADAM OFF 10.Simon COX
74’ 27.Kwame YEBOAH (Western Sydney)
Next Match details
Round 29 – Wellington Phoenix versus Brisbane Roar at Bankwest Stadium, Parramatta; Wed 5 August 2020, 8pm NZT