Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick was bullish after watching his side beat the newly-crowned ACL champion Western Sydney Wanderers 1-0 in Wellington.
“Tonight we beat the best team in Asia and we did it in style”, said Merrick after watching Nathan Burns score a 79th minute winner.
“I thought we were totally dominant and I was disappointed we didn’t go in at half-time with a couple of goals. We should have had a couple in the second half and we missed a penalty.”
Merrick was unhappy with his side’s attacking play in Monday night’s loss away to Melbourne Victory and the team worked hard during the week on taking opportunities.
“I was looking for a response from that loss and I didn’t think we played that badly but we weren’t good in the front third. We were good in the front third tonight and we can get better still. We’ve been doing a lot of work in the penalty area around getting our shots off. We need to do that better and we’ve been working at it in every training session. “
The Phoenix mentor has long preached a possession-based attacking game and he feels his players are now instinctively playing that way.
“I’m really keen to persist with playing good football under all sorts of circumstances, whether we’re ahead, whether we’re behind, whether we’re home or away. I think the mind-set of going out and winning well and playing good football is becoming instilled in the players. I was just really impressed tonight.”
Merrick mentioned almost every Phoenix player in his post-match media conference but reserved special praise for Spanish midfielder Albert Riera.
“He can’t do anything wrong. We’re going to sign him for twelve years on his next contract”, joked the Scot.
“It’s hard to pick our best player but Albert was certainly amongst them.”
The Phoenix next face Adelaide United away next Saturday.