The real deal: ultra-competitive Phoenix showing true potential
If there were any doubts over Wellington Phoenix’s Hyundai A-League credentials they may have just been crushed.
Phoenix were dead and buried at this point last season. Fast forward 12 months and the New Zealanders are trading blows in the backyard of the reigning Hyundai A-League Champions.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for Phoenix, who have traditionally been rolled over and swept aside on their travels against the competition’s big boys.
Phoenix are clearly made of sterner stuff under Mark Rudan, as their fiercely competitive 90-minute display and 1-1 draw against Melbourne Victory on Friday night demonstrated.
And after claiming the scalp of Sydney FC earlier in the month, Wellington boast a bid for finals football that must be taken seriously.
They are doing it with style and purpose too, evidenced by the resurgence of David Williams, who now has two high-quality goals to his name in as many weeks after Friday night’s stunner.
Williams, a former nemesis of Victory at Melbourne Heart, remarked that Phoenix had not only pushed Victory but entertained the crowds in the process.
“We deserved a point, we worked hard [and] we pushed them to their limits,” he told FOX SPORTS following the match.
“They’re Champions for a reason and we’re full of confidence.
“I think we entertained the people at home and the people here are probably disappointed with the draw.”
Although Wellington – now fourth on the Hyundai A-League ladder – will be buoyed Friday’s result, Rudan will undoubtedly be guarded against his side and the Phoenix fans getting carried away.
The visitors came under fire late on as Victory rallied and on another day might have succumbed to a late winner.
It is the type of high-octane, big-game management that the club and Rudan must learn together as Wellington attempt to crystallise their top six aspirations.
“Tactics don’t vary too much game to game but we’ve got to fight and keep pushing forward,” Williams continued.
“We put them under pressure in the first 45 and really gave it to them.
“Sometimes we can run out of legs, its humid and hot here not like in Wellington where it’s been quite nice cooler weather.
“We probably sat back a bit too much but they’re a quality side.”