Phoenix beat nine-man Jets
The Wellington Phoenix have prevailed over the Newcastle Jets 2-0 at Westpac Stadium on Sunday night in a hard-working but relatively dour affair.
The Wellington Phoenix have prevailed over the Newcastle Jets 2-0 at Westpac Stadium on Sunday night in a hard-working affair.
The first half was largely scrappy, with two workman-like teams that were both prepared to get involved in some physical play in an attempt to gain possession. Whilst the commitment was admirable, the end product was ungainly.
Both sides effectively nullified each other, but the half wasn't without some key chances.
The most notable was a defensive blunder by Mark Paston in the 24th minute, where the goalkeeper's misjudgment almost cost the opening goal.
The big stopper's hesitancy allowed time and space for Newcastle striker Marko Jesic to have an open opportunity on goal, which the Novocastrian somehow managed to miss despite having nothing between himself and the empty net.
However, the let-off didn't seem to spur the home side into life, as it continued to battle - especially in the final third - despite dominating territory and possession.
The Phoenix got a break on 28 minutes, when a petulant kick from Newcastle's Joel Griffiths on Karl Dodd earned last season's top scorer a red card and an early bath - much to adulation of the home crowd which gave the Newcastle player a rousing send off.
Again though, the home side wasn't able to capitalise on the numerical advantage, and headed into the break with the game scoreless.
Newcastle came out of the blocks faster in the second period, and showed some endeavour going forward, despite being a man down.
It was granted several free kicks in good range of the Phoenix goal, but was unable to take advantage with Paston standing form between the posts when called upon.
The game took another twist to the visitors' detriment on 67 minutes, when Mark Milligan was given a straight red card for a dangerous challenge.
It left Newcastle with a mountain to climb, and the Phoenix a golden opportunity to grab the three points on offer.
The home side pressed forward and continued to attack, but left it late in the piece to score - just when it seemed that the match was destined to be a draw.
The ever-present Shane Smeltz was on hand to convert a bullet of a header at the near post on 78 minutes to open the scoring and break the deadlock.
The Phoenix continued to press the Jets, and scored again seven minutes later - this time through substitute Troy Hearfield against his former club.
Leo Bertos did enough to give himself half a yard of space and whipped a low, flat cross across the area. Hearfield didn't seem to know much about it, but got a crucial touch which saw the ball nestle into the far corner to make the score 2-0.
To its credit, Newcastle didn't give up, and won a penalty in injury time thanks to some quick feet from Tarek Elrich.
However, the Newcastle player was unable to make the chance count with his penalty being saved by Paston.
All in all, Wellington will be satisfied with the win whilst Newcastle will be kicking itself for its poor discipline, as that was effectively the difference between the two sides.