Phoenix beat Wanderers in Sinopec pre-season tour
Two fine strikes from Roly Bonevacia, a well-taken goal by Blake Powell and a penalty save by Lewis Italiano carried the Wellington Phoenix to a 3-1 win over Western Sydney Wanderers at Pirtek Stadium on Sunday night in their latest Sinopec pre-season tour match.
Coach Ernie Merrick was delighted with his team’s performance, especially as he has players still to come back into the side from injuries,
There was another injury blow for the Phoenix when goalkeeper Glen Moss jarred his neck in the warm up but Italiano stepped in and performed well.
“It was a very good performance,” Merrick said.
“It was disappointing to lose another first team player in the warm up but Glen’s injury is temporary and hopefully we will have him back for the Sydney game, but I was really impressed with the way the backline performed.
“Vince Lia slotted in between the two centre backs when needed and they were rock solid the whole game.
“Lewis did well to save the penalty and the midfield was outstanding.
“Up front it was good to see Kwabena (Appiah) having a good run alongside Roy (Krishna) and Michael McGlinchey was setting them up left, right and centre.
“Then there was Roly’s two strikes which were outstanding, especially the first one.
“It is good that it is coming together well and that we are getting more first team players on the pitch.
“We put youngsters James McGarry and Joel Stevens on in the closing stages and they acquitted themselves well, as did Michael Ridenton and Alex Rufer when they went into the midfield.”
The Phoenix went on the attack from the outset, knocking the ball around confidently and they took the lead after eight minutes when Bonevacia produced a wonderful strike that flew into the top corner of the net from 22 metres.
Seven minutes later Bonevacia made space for himself just inside the penalty area and drove a low shot into the corner giving goalkeeper Dean Bouzanis no chance of saving.
The Phoenix began the second spell brightly but were rocked 11 minutes in when the Wanderers were given a penalty for handball.
It looked a harsh decision but justice was done when Italiano dived low to his left to save Federico Piovaccari’s spot kick.
Mitch Nichols did pull a goal back in the 70th minute when the Phoenix gave the ball away but Powell restored the visitors two-goal margin by pouncing on some sloppy defending and scoring.
The Phoenix play New South Wales Premier League side Apia on Tuesday and Merrick intends to give the young Academy players their chance to impress.
“I will save those who played tonight for the game against Sydney FC on Friday,” he said.