Phoenix outclass finals-bound Bulls to end valiant season on a high

Wellington Phoenix ended their 2020/21 A-League campaign in fine fashion, dominating a ten-man Macarthur FC to win 3-0 at Campbelltown Stadium on Friday night.

The Bulls lacked firepower up front without the absent Matt Derbyshire and Markel Susaeta and Wellington took full advantage as David Ball, Tomer Hemed and substitute Ben Waine found the back of the net in a comprehensive victory.

Macarthur substitute Loïc Puyo saw red after a VAR intervention for a studs-up challenge on Ulises Dávila - in what may prove to be the Wellington magician's final game as a Phoenix player - as the Bulls were reduced to ten early in the second half.

The home side had the chance to go third with a home win to heap pressure on Brisbane Roar and Central Coast Mariners yet to play in Matchweek 24.

But instead, the three-goal defeat was enough to send the Bulls below Adelaide United into sixth spot with an inferior goal difference, confirming Ante Milicic's side will finish as the lowest-ranked Finals Series competitor in the club's first A-League campaign.

Phoenix forward Ball and midfield creator Reno Piscopo shone on the night for the Phoenix. Ball - who scored the opening goal on the cusp of half time - won a penalty for his side which Hemed struck into Macarthur's stellar goalkeeper Adam Federici before assisting Waine's finish for the third Phoenix goal as the New Zealand outfit reached the end of a testing A-League campaign displaying the class, bravery and commitment Ufuk Talay's side have shown all season long.

READ: A-League Finals Series dates revealed

Key Moments

The Phoenix looked set to go without reward for effort for a fantastic first-half showing, before Ball put the ball in the net in added time to send the away side into the break with a 1-0 advantage. 

Piscopo crafted the early danger for Wellington, teeing up Ball to lash a strike off his right boot just past the post, before the crafty creator got in on the act himself, blasting a strike from a narrow angle into the body of Federici who closed the space on Piscopo's run into the box in the 11th minute of play.

Wellington's two full-backs combined to create Wellington's next chance on goal, with Louis Fenton floating one up for Sam Sutton to attack at the back post. Sutton's header was intercepted before it could reach Federici and a mad scramble ensued, with a number of Bulls bodies getting back to clear the danger.

Clayton Lewis missed the target from just outside the box and Dávila got forward with Phoenix bodies to his left and right before firing wide of the mark himself as the away side continued to hassle the Macarthur defence, but in the first minute of stoppage time it was Hemed and Ball who worked in tandem down the right flank to evenutally get their team ahead. 

GOAL: Ball - The Englishman kick-starts the action in stoppage time

The Bulls made a pair of changes at half time, bringing Jake Hollman and Puyo on for Ivan Franjic and Tommy Oar. 

The two changes proved calamitous for the home side, as Hollman's attempted clearance deflected off the chest of Davila to fall directly into Hemed's path in the box, who doubled Wellington's advantage less than a minute after play resumed in the second 45.

GOAL: Hemed - The Phoenix go two to the good

Macarthur's uphill climb got even steeper in the 58th minute when Puyo's night came to a premature end. A yellow card was initially brandished by Daniel Elder after the Frenchman caught Dávila just below the kneecap with a high boot - but VAR Kris Griffiths-Jones recommended Elder take another look at the incident.

And, just 13 minutes after coming off the bench, Puyo was sent back off the park as Elder upgraded yellow to red at Campbelltown Stadium.

RED CARD: Puyo - The Bulls are down to ten men

Amidst the Phoenix domination, young Bulls forward Michael Ruhs attempted to wrestle his side back into the contest down the other end. Ruhs beat Wellington 'keeper Oliver Sail with a powerful header which nicked out for a goal kick off the post, and lashed another strike off the side netting in the 64th minute as he chased the goal needed to peg the Phoenix back.

Hemed looked to put his name on the scoresheet with a dipping, swerving left-footed shot which dropped over the head of Federici to rattle the crossbar, and moments later the Bulls gloveman was called upon once more to tip a deflected Devlin strike around the post. 

Another VAR check made Moudi Najjar sweat in the 76th minute after he caught Lewis on the ankle with his studs raised, but this time Elder elected not to go back on his original decision to caution the Macarthur forward. 

Lachlan Rose was the third Bulls substitute to cause problems for his side when taking down Ball in the box to gift the Phoenix an 84th-minute penalty. 

With Dávila off the ground, Hemed stepped up to the spot - but for the second time in two games a Phoenix player failed to convert. Federici - who excelled throughout the game - guessed right to block Hemed's strike angled low toward the bottom-left corner of goal.

SAVE: Federici - The Bulls keeper save the penalty

Phoenix substitute Waine came off the bench to score his seventh goal in second-half stoppage time and seal an emphatic Phoenix victory. 

A third goal was just what the away side deserved for a completely dominant performance at Campbelltown Stadium. Ball played the through pass to Waine and Fenton - who was well offside - did his best to avoid making contact as the bal bounced across his path and into Waine's vicinity to finish.

GOAL: Waine - The Kiwi youngster finished the season in style

Next matches - Matchweek 24

Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC
Saturday, June 5 2021
Venue: Moreton Daily Stadium
Kick-off: 3.05pm AEST
Broadcast: FOX Sports 505
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports
Match Centre

Central Coast Mariners v Western United
Saturday, June 5 2021
Venue: Central Coast Stadium
Kick-off: 5.05 pm AEST
Broadcast: FOX Sports 505, ABC TV
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports
Match Centre

Newcastle Jets v Perth Glory
Saturday, June 5 2021
Venue: McDonald Jones Stadium
Kick-off: 7.10pm AEST
Broadcast: FOX Sports 505
Stream: MyFootball Live App, Kayo Sports
Match Centre