The old adage of when your luck’s out its really out certainly applied to the Wellington Phoenix when they were beaten 1-0 by the high-flying Newcastle Jets at QBE Stadium in Auckland on Saturday night.
It was the first time that the Phoenix had been beaten in Auckland and coach Chris Greenacre must have thought the team bus had run over a black cat such was the lack of luck his team enjoyed in a pulsating performance.
It was undoubtedly the Phoenix’ best performance since they beat Newcastle in round 17 and arguably their best of the season.
The Phoenix played with an energy that would have warmed their fans hearts and with any luck at all they would have been taking a point, if not three, back to Wellington.
Right from the outset the Phoenix took the game to the Jets who were playing a high offside line in the hope of catching the speedy Nathan Burns and Roy Krishna offside.
Even without captain Andrew Durante, who was ruled out with a hip flexor injury, the Phoenix defence had a more solid look about it and they were unlucky to concede the only goal of the game two minutes before halftime.
In a crowded Phoenix penalty area the Jets had two shots blocked before defender Jason Hoffman produced a well-struck side volley that goalkeeper Tando Velaphi got a hand to but couldn’t keep out.
Conceding so late in the half was hard on the Phoenix who had been the better side and had created more chances in the first 45 minutes.
The Phoenix kept up their high tempo pressing and passing right to the end.
Early in the second half Krishna went on a brilliant run and played a slide rule pass across goal that Burns turned agonisingly narrowly past the upright.
Matija Ljujic hit a bending left foot shot past the left hand upright and young defender Libby Cacace, who had a tremendous game, had a goal bound effort deflected past the post.
The Phoenix kept pushing right to the end and Jets keeper Jack Duncan made a vital save in the 95th minute to keep out a Dylan Fox header.
Burns, who made some fine runs, described his team’s performance as “awesome”.
“We created chances and I was really pleased how we finished the game,” he said.
“We showed a lot of fight against a very good team and I was proud of the boys.”
The Phoenix will play their final home game against Melbourne City at the same venue and general manager David Dome said Auckland was important to the club and football in New Zealand.
“We have a good supporter base in Auckland,” Dome said.
“We get great support from Regional Facilities Auckland which makes delivering games in Auckland seamless."
“With the rapid developments being made in the A-League the competition is set to get bigger and better which is something Auckland is likely to have a strong interest in.”