The Wellington Phoenix have fallen to Perth Glory 1-0 tonight, despite a strong showing by the Nix which saw them dominate the match against their Distance Derby rivals.
After going down 0-1 at the break thanks to a Joel Chianese goal, the Nix would have multiple goal attempts in the second half but were unable to equalise; goalkeeper Liam Reddy the hero for Perth with 11 saves on the night.
With Luke DeVere a late scratch due to a groin injury, Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi was called into the starting line-up, with Jaushua Sotirio getting the starting nod over Callum McCowatt.
The match began with Perth in early control of the ball, but unable to do anything meaningful with it. The Phoenix would have an early chance on goal thanks to David Ball, but his attempt would be safely blocked by Reddy; then on the 15 minute mark Perth would have their own attempt spectacularly denied by Nix goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.
Following a narrow miss by Ball on a header attempt, Perth would strike first on 18 minutes - with Chianese scoring a difficult goal over an outstretched Marinovic to put Perth up 1-0.
Wellington would press the attack in an attempt to equalise, at one point making six goal attempts in a row; Sotirio, Ball, Liberato Cacace and Ulises Davila’s attempts all either blocked or wide of the goal.
Davila would have two more solid attempts before the half – the first a free kick on 30 minutes that was on target but batted away by Reddy, and the second an excellent chance in front of goal that again was barely saved by Perth’s goalkeeper.
Half-time would come with Wellington dominating the ball and with plenty of opportunities on goal - 17 attempts (five on target) to Glory’s eight. The Nix unlucky to have not scored given their chances; Reddy also a factor with an impressive five saves in the first 45 minutes.
Wellington would open the second half continuing the attack, with Davila attempting a pair of goals – the first sailing over the net and the second saved by Reddy – and Bruno Fornaroli seeing his own attempt thwarted by Marinovic.
The Nix would have another trio of attempts on goal thanks to Reno Piscopo, Steven Taylor and Sotirio which all failed to connect, with Ball also having a pair of chances in front of goal – the first saved by Reddy and the second hitting the crossbar just before the 90 minute mark.
Callum McCowatt and Sotirio would try to equalise in extra time, but neither could connect and Perth would walk off the field as Elimination Final victors with a 1-0 win.
Despite the loss, the match statistics would testify to Wellington’s dominance on the night; 32 shots (11 on target) to Perth’s 15, the Nix with more than double the number of passes versus their opponent and with 129 attacks against Glory’s 72.
After the match, Phoenix Coach Ufuk Talay gave credit to his players for their performance as well as reflecting on their long and arduous season.
"We've got a great bunch of boys - we started off on the back foot but the belief and the process was there and it got us to third on the table.
“You dominate the game and create enough opportunities to win, but if we’re not clinical in front of goal we can’t win games; we gave them one opportunity where they scored and we totally dominated the game but we didn’t get a goal to get ourselves back into it.”
Talay also saw this match as a great experience for the younger players who saw their first Finals minutes.
“The more they play in these finals series, the more accustomed they get to it and the better experience they get from it."
Talay says that he has enjoyed his first season as Phoenix coach and regards it as a successful campaign - in which they achieved their highest ever placing in the competition, while also earning a reputation as a club that specialises in developing young players to help them reach their full potential. Talay will now fly back to Wellington to begin the task of building and readying his Phoenix team for another run to the Finals next season.
While this match spells the end to the Phoenix in the Finals, Perth Glory will now progress to the Semi-Finals against Sydney FC, in a rematch of last year’s championship final.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO, 13.Liberato CACACE, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c)
Perth Glory Starting XI
5.Ivan FRANJIC, 7.Joel CHIANESE, 9.Bruno FORNAROLI, 16.Tomislav MRCELA, 20.Jake BRIMMER, 21.Tarek ELRICH, 23.Dane INGHAM, 27.JUANDE, 29.Kristian POPOVIC, 33.Liam REDDY (gk), 88.Neil KILKENNY (c)
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
74’ ON 21. Callum McCOWATT OFF 8.Cameron DEVLIN
87’ ON 14. Alex RUFER OFF 5.Matti STEINMANN
Perth Glory Substitutes
74’ ON 13. Osama MALIK OFF 29.Kristian POPOVIC
87’ ON 22. Vince LIA ` OFF 20.Jake BRIMMER
18’ Joel CHIANESE (Perth Glory)