Ifill key for Phoenix

Paul Ifill showed all his class and few ill-effects from his injury-enforced layoff as he inspired the Wellington Phoenix to a valuable 2-1 Hyundai A-League win against Sydney FC.

Paul Ifill showed all his class and few ill-effects from his injury-enforced layoff as he inspired the Wellington Phoenix to a valuable 2-1 Hyundai A-League win against Sydney FC.

Ifill returned to action last weekend off the bench but was making his first start on Sunday since aggravating a groin injury in round two.

It took him just seven minutes to get on the score sheet and for the following 53 minutes, until he was replaced by Mirjan Pavlovic, he proved time and time again just how vital he is to the Phoenix.

Whether it was scoring his goal, setting up his wingers or beating defenders, Ifill had a hand in virtually everything and the players around him seemed to lift their game a notch too.

"He's massive for us," acknowledged striker/assistant coach Chris Greenacre.

"He's capable of changing any game."

"It's probably a year since he's really played. You could see he wanted to be out there. He's worked hard in training trying to get himself match-fit after his injuries."

"He showed he just needs a little sniff and he scores. I'm delighted for him."

Prior to the game coach Ricki Herbert doubted his star playmaker would last the full 90 minutes against Sydney and would need to have his workload managed.

Herbert said even if Tim Brown had not scored with a stunning long-range volley in the 59th minute he would have substituted Ifill anyway.

It gave the coach the perfect opportunity to give Pavlovic, also on the comeback trail after breaking his arm in pre-season, much-needed game time, as well as easing some of the pressure on Greenacre who has had to carry much of the work up front in the absence of Ifill.

"Chris has done a shift up there for weeks and weeks with no strikers with them all being out injured," said Herbert, who at one point only had 15 fit players to choose from."

"Paul should hopefully back up against Melbourne Heart and it was good to see Pav coming on too."

"That just gives us some other options," Herbert added.

"I thought they (Ifill and Pavlovic) were both excellent tonight and Chris and his discipline and what he does at the top is second to none."

But after playing every minute of the first eight games of the season Greenacre has warned he won't be giving up his place without a fight.

"I don't want to give up my shirt for anyone. But that's football. The manager will make decisions," the 33-year-old Englishman said.

"Whether I'm involved or not I back Ricki 110 percent with whatever he decides."

"I'm just enjoying being here. Who knows how long I've got left playing. I'm just delighted to be able to turn up and play in front of a great crowd, great stadium and be involved in professional football. Getting a result today with my best mates, life isn't any better."

Brown will probably be having similar sentiments after his 45-metre volley beat former Phoenix keeper Liam Reddy to seal the valuable three points for Wellington, who had a brief scare when Bruno Cazarine grabbed a goal back for Sydney in the 70th minute.

Normally used to scoring off late runs into the box, the midfielder's stunning effort drew nothing but praise from Greenacre.

"It was a great strike. For an attacking midfielder his finishing and technique is second to none," the striker said.

"I knew it was a chance. It came over my head and you kind of know. Liam's positioning was probably excellent but the finish was just too good. I think he probably thought it had gone over the bar. But thankfully for us it went in and got us that win."