Nikita double buries Phoenix
The Perth Glory have won their third match in a row at home, moving off the bottom of the Hyundai A-League table through a 2-0 victory over the Wellington Phoenix at Members Equity Stadium on Sunday evening.
The Perth Glory have won their third match in a row at home, moving off the bottom of the Hyundai A-League table through a 2-0 victory over the Wellington Phoenix at Members Equity Stadium.
Nikita Rukavytsya did the damage for the hosts, scoring on either side of the break as Wellington's attacking forays were well contained by a solid Glory defence that did the job despite being without the experienced Hayden Foxe, who missed selection with hamstring soreness.
Rukavytsya scored in the 15th and 70th minutes, while second half-substitute Eugene Dadi narrowly missed a flicked-on effort for Perth in the dying stages, with Wellington's best attempt coming ten minutes from time when Michael Ferrante forced Glory stopper Tando Velaphi into a diving save.
The victory takes the Glory into seventh on the Hyundai A-league table, on equal points with sixth-placed Newcastle, and represents the first time the club has won three on the trot at home in the new competition. Wellington, however, drops to the bottom of the standings.
Glory coach Dave Mitchell admitted though, that the match was a scrappy affair where nerves played a part in both sides giving up possession far too easily.
"It was a very important game and it showed with the players being very nervous in the first half,'' Mitchell said.
"We couldn't string too many passes together even though we went 1-0 up. I had a few stern words with them at half-time and the second half was a much better performance."
"We are just above Wellington now and hopefully we can get a couple of more results, particularly at home."
After two losses to the Glory on the road in as many months, Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert was disappointed but determined to use the result as motivation for the rest of the season.
"If you can put three or four back to back, then you're going to keep yourself in the mix," Herbert said.
"Nobody's really been able to establish that I don't think for a long period in the League this year, I think the top side on 17 after ten games."
"But you've got to get that little run going. I think we put three together and when you put four or five together, you're right there again, but we've got a little bit of work to do as expected."
From the outset, Rukavytsya seemed the player most likely to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
He found himself in a dangerous position as early as the fourth minute, when Phoenix stopper Mark Paston came off his line dangerously, although on this occasion, the ball refused to sit for the Ukrainian-born striker.
The visitors seemed to be controlling possession better than the Glory though, threatening Tando Velaphi's goal for the first time in the 12th minute when forward Lei Lei Gao turned inside Jimmy Downey in a good position and sent a curling strike over the bar.
The Glory took the lead against the run of play on the quarter hour, though, exploiting a long goal kick from Velaphi that Jamie Harnwell headed forward. Rukavytsya did well to claim possession from Andrew Durante and the striker arrowed in on goal from the right, slipping a low shot below a poorly-timed Paston dive.
Although both sides were guilty of giving away possession on numerous occasions, the Phoenix looked more comfortable on the ball, creating the next few chances as Perth looked to soak up the pressure and use Rukavytsya's pace on the counter-attack.
In the 25th minute Shane Smeltz failed to control a headed attempt off former Glory player Leo Bertos's cross while Bertos was unlucky to see his powerful attempt cannon straight into Nikolai Topor-Stanley four minutes later.
Seven minutes after the break, the Phoenix wasted their best chance to equalise when the lively Bertos sent in a long ball that had a fraction too much pace on it for Vaughan Coveny and Smeltz to control.
That attempt seemed to spark the Glory into life as Harnwell, who was under an injury cloud for most of this week, saw a half chance saved by Paston in the 54th minute before the veteran Glory man glanced a header wide of the upright after being set up by Jamie Coyne's cross three minutes later.
Two minutes later Rukavytsya missed a great chance to double the advantage as he failed to attack a quality cross from Nicky Rizzo on the left that should have given him an easy header on target.
The miss looked like it might come back to haunt Perth when central defender Dino Djulbic, in the starting line-up for the first time since his red card against Sydney in round three, tumbled awkwardly in a challenge on the line, straining his ankle in the process.
The injury saw Glory coach Dave Mitchell re-shuffle his line-up, sending Harnwell back into central defence to replace Djulbic and bringing fit again striker Eugene Dadi in to partner Rukavytsya up front.
The move soon paid dividends as Dadi and Rukavytsya combined seven minutes later to extend the lead in a well-worked counter-attack.
Phoenix youngster Costa Barbarouses had sent in a dangerous cross that Velaphi had just got his hands to but the stopper's quick distribution saw Naum Sekulovski win the ball deep in defence, passing to the middle where Dadi's intelligent flick allowed Rukavytsya to run onto the ball, powering past Tony Lochhead and emphatically burying the finish beyond Paston and into the bottom, left-hand corner.
Ten minutes from time, Wellington came closest to pulling a goal back when Michael Ferrante's long-range shot swerved awkwardly in mid-air, deceiving Velaphi in goal. But the goalkeeper's excellent reflexes allowed him to get a fingernail to the ball and deflect it around the upright, securing the result for the home side.
Perth Glory 2 (Rukavytsya 15, 70) Wellington Phoenix 0
Crowd: 7228 at Perth's Members Equity Stadium