Preview: Wellington v Perth
It's do or die time for Wellington and Perth as both clubs face off in their maiden Hyundai A-League finals appearance in what's promising to be an action-packed afternoon at Westpac Stadium.
Date: Sunday February 21 Kick-off: 5.00pm, 3:00pm AEDT, 12:00pm AWST Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington TV and Radio: Live and exclusive broadcast on FOX Sports wwww, 1 HD and Sky Sport 2. Hyundai A-League club radio broadcast partner is The Radio Network 1035 AM (Wellington) and 6PR (Perth) 882AM. To purchase tickets visit www.ticketek.co.nz.
Head-to-head 9 Hyundai A-League meetings: Wins: Perth Glory 3, Wellington 4, Draws 2
Previous meeting Perth Glory 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, ME Bank Stadium, Round 24, January 2010
Past five matches: Wellington Phoenix: Round 24: Perth Glory 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, ME Bank Stadium Round 19: Melbourne Victory 4, Wellington Phoenix 0, Etihad Stadium Round 25: Wellington Phoenix 1, Adelaide United 0, AMI Stadium, Christchurch Round 26: Gold Coast United 0, Wellington Phoenix 1, Skilled Park, Gold Coast Round 27: Wellington Phoenix 3, Central Coast Mariners 0, Westpac Stadium
Perth Glory: Round 19: Adelaide United 2, Perth Glory 3, Hindmarsh Stadium Round 24: Perth Glory 2, Wellington Phoenix 0, ME Bank Stadium Round 25: Perth Glory 3, Central Coast Mariners 1, ME Bank Stadium Round 26: Sydney FC 3, Perth Glory 2, Sydney Football Stadium Round 27: Perth Glory 2, Brisbane Roar 0, ME Bank Stadium
Analysis: It's do or die time for Wellington and Perth as both clubs face off in their maiden Hyundai A-League finals appearance in what's promising to be an action-packed afternoon at Westpac Stadium.
Having cheered on the All Whites to a position at the World Cup, more than 20,000 Kiwi football fans are expected to grace the terraces at the Sardine Can on Sunday, producing one of the competition's most intimidating atmospheres.
Indeed, the Wellington fans have taken this side to heart as the Phoenix produced a breakout third season in the competition, finishing fourth on the back of 10 wins, 10 draws and seven losses for the year. More importantly, Wellington is unbeaten at Westpac Stadium over the last 18 months and will be confident of maintaining that record against a travel-shy Glory side that's only managed three wins on the road over the last two campaigns.
Despite appearing relaxed at training throughout the week, Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert will still be wary of Perth as Wellington's only managed one win over the Western Australians the last six times they've played. That result occurred in Round 2 this season when a long-range strike from Leo Bertos deflected into goal for a 2-1 result. The Glory, though, were unfortunate not to have at least taken a point from that game after dominating the second half, while the Perth side also toughed out a 1-1 draw with Wellington in Round 14. Furthermore, in the last match between the two teams, the Glory hammered Wellington 2-0 at ME Bank Stadium in a result that somewhat flattered the visiting side.
The Phoenix, though, has still managed to win their last three matches heading into the finals and will go into this clash full of confidence despite the slightly indifferent record against Perth. As a result, it's hardly surprising Herbert has barely changed his squad, having merely added Diego and Ben Sigmund to the extended roster.
Despite this being the club's first finals' appearance, Herbert will still be confident his men won't be fazed by the pressure. Along with some experienced heads like Paul Ifill and Chris Greenacre, his side contains six members of the New Zealand national team who, after enduring the pressure of last November's World Cup battle with Bahrain, should have no trouble adapting to the extra intensity of finals football.
The Glory, though, will feature a few national representatives of their own as coach Dave Mitchell prepares to add three Qantas Socceroos to the side that accounted for Brisbane 2-0 in the last match of the regular season. Skipper Jacob Burns has put his hand up to start in this clash, despite missing the last three matches with a hamstring tear, while Mile Sterjovski (back) and Chris Coyne (thigh) are also expected to line up.
All three players have also endured some big game international pressure, having been part of the Australian side that qualified for the World Cup. Goalkeeper Tando Velaphi also finds himself on the fringes of national selection, while striker Daniel McBreen's been included in Pim Verbeek's squad for the upcoming clash with Indonesia after producing several inspired performances since crossing from North Queensland on January 15. Perth also boasts former Blackburn skipper Andy Todd, who probably felt pressure like this every single week he played in the English Premiership.
With Perth having finished in fifth position on the Hyundai A-League table, just one point behind Wellington, it's obvious there's nothing much separating these teams. Despite both sides enduring slumps at different stages of the season, they've produced their best football heading into the finals, with both teams presumably confident of going on and really challenging for the title if they can make it through this encounter.
Questions, though, still hover over the Glory's fitness and whether the Western Australians can produce their best form after a big day flying to the New Zealand capital last Wednesday. The Glory will also be coming up against a rabid crowd and former striker Eugene Dadi, who will be itching to make an impression against his old side after an embarrassing match last time around, when he mis-kicked a penalty. All in all, this promises to be a tight rollercoaster of a match that could very well be decided by a penalty shoot-out. And if that happens, look out for a man named Eugene Dadi.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Jon McKAIN, 5. DIEGO, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS, 8. Paul IFILL, 9. Chris GREENACRE, 11. DANIEL, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 14. Adrian CACERES, 15. Eugene DADI, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 20. Reece CROWTHER (gk), 22. Andrew DURANTE (c), 40. Liam REDDY (gk)
*one to be omitted*
In: DIEGO (promoted), Ben SIGMUND (promoted)
Unavailable: Mark PASTON (gk) (leg - season)
Perth Glory Squad: 1.Tando VELAPHI (gk), 2.Danny MCBREEN, 3.Jamie COYNE, 4.Andy TODD, 5.Jamie HARNWELL, 6.Chris COYNE, 7. Jacob BURNS, 9. Tommy AMPHLETT, 10. Wayne SRHOJ, 11. Branko JELIC, 12.Scott NEVILLE, 13.Scott BULLOCH, 14. Steven McGARRY, 16.Adriano PELLEGRINO, 17.Todd HOWARTH, 19.Naum SEKULOVSKI, 20.Aleks VRTESKI (gk), 21.Mile STERJOVSKI, 23.Andrija JUKIC
*three to be omitted*
In: Chris COYNE (returns from corked thigh), Jacob BURNS (returns from hamstring injury), Branko JELIC (promoted), Mile Sterjovski (return from back injury)
Unavailable: Viktor SIKORA (Thigh - 2 weeks)