The Wellington Phoenix have fallen 3-0 to the Newcastle Jets last night in their final match of the regular season, despite dominating the opposition for much of the game.
The final outcome was not indicative of the Phoenix’s spirited play, as they were unable to capitalise on a strong first half which saw them consistently on the attack - with Jets goalkeeper Noah James impressing in his debut for the club and denying the Nix their chances.
Despite this loss, Wellington remain in third place on the ladder and on track for their highest regular season finish ever. Their only threat to this position comes from Western United; with two matches remaining, the first-year club would need to beat both Sydney FC and Melbourne City to have any chance of unseating the Nix in third.
The match began with the Phoenix squarely on the front foot; early attempts by Callan Elliot and David Ball unable to connect and Jet’s goalkeeper James making a pair of impressive saves in the first 15 minutes - including a desperate denial using his head.
Ball would continue to impress on attack, taking a solid pass from Liberato Cacace on 27 minutes and hitting the back of the net – only to be ruled offside. A subsequent attempt two minutes later was denied by James.
Newcastle were noticeably physical in their play, with Ulises Dávila - the most fouled player in the Hyundai A-League - being roughed up on several occasions; Nikolai Topor-Stanley earning a yellow with a particularly hard challenge on the Phoenix’s leading goal scorer.
The Jets came alive in the last ten minutes of the half, with a headed attempt by Jason Hoffman on the 37 minute mark that went over the net, with Nix goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic scooping up a weak attempt by Dimitri Petratos shortly after. The Jets persistence would get them on the scoreboard just before the half-time whistle, thanks to Nick Fitzgerald slotting home to put Newcastle up 1-0.
The first half saw Wellington dominating the Jets in many facets of the match, with plenty of attacking opportunities they were unlucky to convert. Despite this, the Jets last-minute goal – their only shot on target in the first half – and the inspired goalkeeping play of James combined to put the Nix down 1-0 heading into the break.
The start of the second half saw a highlight-reel save by Marinovic on a Petratos attempt, one of several top-shelf denials on the night.
After Angus Thurgate’s attempt hit the Phoenix’s goalpost, Wellington countered with an excellent chance to equalise by Cacace – but we was unable to control the ball into the net past a fallen James.
A pair of goals in a three-minute stretch by the Jets – the first a rocket by Bernie Ibini and the second a goal by a Hoffman on 79 minutes – would put the match out of reach for the Phoenix, and Newcastle would walk away with a 3-0 win.
Following the match, Coach Ufuk Talay spoke about how proud he was of the players and what they have achieved this season.
“We did enough in the first half to win the game, but didn’t capitalise on the opportunities we created – but [despite this] we’ll be playing Finals football which is most important for us.
“I’m proud of the boys and the commitment and intent of the players, just disappointed with the outcome – but we’ll learn from it and prepare ourselves for the Finals game.”
The Phoenix now have nine days to regroup while they wait to find out their Elimination Finals opponent, scheduled to be played on either 22 or 23 August.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 3.Luke DEVERE, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 13.Liberato CACACE, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 21.Callum MCCOWATT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c)
Newcastle Jets Starting XI
3.Jason HOFFMAN, 4.Nigel BOOGAARD (c), 6.Steven UGARKOVIC, 9.Abdiel ARROYO, 10.Dimi PETRATOS, 11.Nick FITZGERALD, 18.Johnny KOUTROUMBIS, 29.Connor O’TOOLE, 32.Angus THURGATE, 40.Noah JAMES (gk), 44.Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
46’ ON 14.Alex RUFER OFF 5.Matti STEINMANN
67’ ON 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO OFF 10.Ulises DAVILA
81’ ON 23.Walter SCOTT OFF 17. Callan ELLIOT
85’ ON 31.Ben WAINE OFF 9.David BALL
Newcastle Jets Substitutes
67’ ON 21.Bernie IBINI OFF 9.Abdiel ARROYO
67’ ON 7.Roy O’DONOVAN OFF 11.Nick FITZGERALD
80’ ON 19.Kosta PETRATOS OFF 10.Dimi PETRATOS
86’ ON 5.Ben KANTAROVSKI OFF 29.Connor O’TOOLE
86’ ON 12.Lucas MAURAGIS OFF 32.Angus THURGATE
45’ Nick FITZGERALD (Newcastle Jets)
76’ Bernie IBINI (Newcastle Jets)
78’ Jason HOFFMAN (Newcastle Jets)
Next Match details
TBA, pending confirmation of Elimination Final dates.