Wellington Phoenix bowed out of the HKFC Citibank Soccer Sevens with an extra-time golden goal loss to pre-tournament favourites and Spanish La Liga giants Atletico Madrid in the Cup semi-final.
The tournament, with the club’s participation sponsored by principle partner Huawei, saw the Phoenix make their tournament debut and impress in the standard and quality of their attacking play with a largely youth based team.
Day one saw the Phoenix start slowly, coming to grips with a new format and stifling 31 degree conditions with a 0-0 draw with Hong Kong Football Association U-18 side.
This result was followed by a 1-0 win over the Hong Kong Football Club which saw a number of the club’s academy players getting extended runs against the host club.
Day one culminated with a 4-1 hammering of English Premier League club Aston Villa in what was the game of the tournament on the opening day and included a hat-trick by Phoenix striker Kwabena Appiah-Kubi.
Day two’s first game was a 3-0 win over local side BC Rangers which took the Phoenix into the Cup semi-final where they faced pre-tournament favourites Atletico Madrid.
In an expansive match where the Phoenix created the best chances but struggled to finish, Phoenix keeper Lewis Italiano made a number of crucial saves to keep the Phoenix in the match against the Spanish giants.
Full time ended in 0-0 and Atletico took the game in golden goal extra time where the numbers are reduced to a four versus four format.
Wellington Phoenix Coach Chris Greenacre was immensely pleased with the progress of the young Phoenix players through the competition.
“We’ve had to adapt to a new format and extremely warm and humid conditions very quickly, and I am extremely proud of how the players have performed.
“Louis Fenton led from the front.
“It’s been extremely valuable to play against international opposition – winning 4-1 against Aston Villa on day one was a real highlight and something I’ll remember for a long time.
‘’We’ve gone a long way into this tournament and placed well ahead of a number of much bigger clubs.
Losing against Atletico Madrid who we pushed all the way and are one of Europe’s biggest clubs is no disgrace.
“The boys were fantastic – they have been very professional and focussed this whole tournament and played some extremely good attacking and exciting football.
“I am immensely proud of every single one of them.”
All ten players got significant game time at the tournament with Captain Louis Fenton, goal keeper Lewis Italiano and striker Kwabena Appiah-Kubi gaining plaudits from the local fans and media.
The tour was especially valuable for the youth players in the squad. Wellington Phoenix Academy players Sam Wilson, Joe Bell and James McGarry and Football School of Excellence players Sapreet Singh and Logan Rogerson got extremely valuable international experience with their participation in the tournament.
Wellington Phoenix Huawei Hong Kong Sevens Tour 2015
Lewis Italiano – first team
Louis Fenton – first team
Tom Doyle – first team
Sam Wilson – Wellington Phoenix Football Academy
Sapreet Singh – Wellington Phoenix Football School of Excellence
Justin Gulley – Wellington Phoenix Football School of Excellence
Joe Bell – Wellington Phoenix Football Academy
Kwabena Appiah-Kubi – first team
James McGarry – Wellington Phoenix Football Academy
Logan Rogerson – Wellington Phoenix Football School of Excellence
Coach: Chris Greenacre