With two of the league’s top goal scorers going head to head Wellington’s Round 12 clash with Sydney FC was always going to be full of subplots.
After a week of off-field distractions Wellington would have loved to take the scalp of the top-placed visitors but Graham Arnold’s men have proved mentally resilient over the last two campaigns and once again proved superior in the little details as they overran an eager Phoenix team.
Having lost once in their past twenty Hyundai A-League games Champions Sydney FC arrived in Wellington in fine spirits, buoyed by an almost clean bill of health and the news that star Phoenix winger Roy Krishna was unavailable for selection.
The Sky Blues made the early running and only fine work from Lewis Italiano between the Nix sticks prevented an opener in the fifth minute.
Scott Galloway had an early tester for the hosts, but on a swift counter attack it was Sydney FC who drew first blood.
Michael Zullo whipped in a tantalising cross from the left in the 16th minute and Brazilian marquee Bobo was on hand to knee home under close attention from the Phoenix defence.
His rival in the A-League golden boot tally Andrija Kaludjerovic had his first sighter eight minutes later as Adam Parkhouse fired in a dangerous ball, but a minute later it was Sydney FC doubling their advantage.
The Sky Blues again catching their hosts on a counter attack and it was Bobo who turned provider to tee up Polish star Adrian Mierzejewski to tap home comfortably at the far post.
Two nil down after twenty-five minute and home fans could have been forgiven for an absence of Christmas cheer, but their chargers lifted as Sydney appeared content to hold a lead.
Scott Galloway fired in a dangerous cross and as Kaludjerovic rose brilliantly, reminiscent of his dual strikes against Victory, to loop home a terrific header to send Darije Kalezić’s men into the sheds trailing by just one.
After the break, it was Wellington who made the early running – Goran Paracki with an effort on target in the 48th minute before Tom Doyle could perhaps have done better with a free header in the 50th minute.
Matt Ridenton then drew a sharp save from Andrew Redmayne between the sticks for Sydney before Sydney again struck with a sucker punch.
Breaking in quick transition, it was Mierzejewski who provided for Bobo who slid in to tuck home past Italiano to make it 3-1.
For Graham Arnold, it might have felt a job done and yet again it was Phoenix who lifted.
Adam Parkhouse had perhaps one of the better chances to open his Wellington account but from just eight yards out fired a free shot straight at Redmayne with 62 minutes gone.
Doyle then fired in another tantalising cross just went agonisingly high of Kaludjerovic as Phoenix looked to tighten proceedings.
Kalezić handed Academy graduate Sarpreet Singh another opportunity from the bench and the eighteen-year-old had only been on the pitch three minutes when he almost produced the moment of the match.
Picking up a loose ball deep into Sydney FC’s half the midfielder drove at the defence, linking inside before firing a curling effort that had Redmayne well-beaten but thumped soundly back off the post.
It was the let-off Sydney capitalised upon as huff and puff Wellington couldn’t find their way back with Bobo completing his hat-trick late on to continue Sydney’s run of six straight victories.