Phoenix overcome spirited Jets

The Wellington Phoenix ran out 3-0 winners over the Newcastle Jets in a topsy-turvy Hyundai A-League match at Westpac Stadium in front of 7,520 spectators on Sunday night.

The Wellington Phoenix ran out 3-0 winners over the Newcastle Jets in a topsy-turvy Hyundai A-League match at Westpac Stadium in front of 7,520 spectators on Sunday night.

The Phoenix began the match playing with the air of a team that knew they had to win to realistically keep their finals chances alive. They appeared nervous and lacked both consistency and fluidity, the Jets by comparison, went into the match with nothing to lose and their fearless approach saw them dominate proceedings from the opening whistle.

It took just three minutes for the first chance of the game, with Newcastle player Jobe Wheelhouse missing a glorious opportunity to open the scoring.

The midfielder was put through thanks to a break-down in communication within the Phoenix defence, and only a brave stop by Glenn Moss prevented the visitors from taking the lead.

Newcastle was the hungrier of the two sides, and its determination and tenacity was putting the home side under huge amounts of pressure. The Jets attacked down the flanks well, with Tarek Elrich proving a constant danger.

A clever run from Elrich on 27 minutes found him wide open and through on goal, thanks to a decisive Matt Thompson pass and Elrich hit a firm curling shot that was destined for the top corner of the goal, but again a superb Moss save denied the visitors the lead.

Moss was outstanding for the home side with a string of superb saves, and was ultimately the reason that Newcastle weren-t several goals up heading into the half.

The scores were level at 0-0 at the break.

It was again Newcastle who came out the stronger of the two sides in the second period, picking up where it left off from the first half and had the first opportunity on goal in the 57th minute after spending a good period of time inside the Phoenix-s third of the field.

Korean player Jin-Hyung Song hit a fierce low drive from 20 yards that Moss had to scramble to his left to turn around the post.

The Phoenix slowly came to life, and began to counter-attack effectively.

They had their first real opportunity of the match on 60 minutes after Leo Bertos turned Mark Milligan inside-out and broke into the box from the left-hand touchline. His incisive run was brought to an end by a shoulder-to-shoulder challenge from Adam Griffiths that produced a frenzied penalty shout, which was ultimately turned down by referee Craig Zetter.

However, it was only a minute later when the Phoenix took an unlikely lead, and it was Bertos who converted.

Troy Hearfield found space on the right and hit a teasing cross that Shane Smeltz narrowly missed connecting with. Bertos ghosted onto the far post and was unmarked as he managed to bundle the ball over the line with his hip from five yards out to give the home side a shock lead.

This was the catalyst that the Wellingtonians needed, and they suddenly came out of their shells and imposed themselves on the game for the first time beginning to throw men forward and put the visitors under pressure.

This approach paid dividends and they doubled the lead on 66 minutes through the free-scoring Shane Smeltz. A raking ball from inside the Phoenix half found Smeltz in the clear on the right hand edge of the box. The striker showed the presence of mind to see that Jets stopper Ante Covic was off his line, and hit a delightful lob into the far corner to make the score 2-0.

Newcastle tried to rally, and came close to clawing a goal back a minute later.

Wheelhouse-s strong run saw him reach the byline and hit a firm ball back across the face of goal. Moss was alert to the danger though, and put his body on the line to deny Sean Rooney leaving both players needing treatment following the collision.

However, the Phoenix well and truly had their tail up and made the score 3-0 on 85 minutes.

Smeltz grabbed his second of the night from the penalty spot, after Hearfield was adjudged to have been brought down illegally inside the Newcastle penalty area.

Covic-s despairing dive was no match for the excellently-taken penalty that rifled into the top left-hand corner of the net to secure the win for the home side.

Newcastle will feel disappointed to have lost in such a fashion after being so dominant for the first hour of the match.

The Phoenix however, will be full of confidence having taken a massive step forward in their quest for a finals spot.