Nathan Burns has put a compelling case forward for a spot in Ange Postecoglou’s Asian Cup squad, inspiring Wellington to a hard-earned 2-0 win over Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
Burns struck twice in the space of eight second half minutes to hand Phoenix just their second win in their last 10 matches against the Sky Blues in the harbour city.
The Sky Blues were given a blow before kick-off with skipper Alex Brosque forced to withdraw with a groin problem and they have won just one of their last seven matches in the Hyundai A-League.
The result sees Wellington leapfrog Sydney into fourth spot on the ladder heading into Christmas.
WHAT THEY SAID
"We really came here and thought we could get something out of it. We rode the storm there for a little while when they put some pressure on but so happy to get a win here. We've got the belief that we're fit enough and strong enough to score in the last minute or the first minute." - Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss
"I don't know what happened. In the first half we dominated, we kept the ball and created a few chances. But second half we didnt press enough, we didn't run enough, every second ball we lose. But that's football, we need to continue now on Boxing Day. We need three points." - Sydney FC defender Nikola Petkovic
0-1 Burns (73’) – Found by McGinchey on the left, Burns ran at a retreating defence, shaping to cut inside before going back onto his left foot. The move mesmerised both Sebastian Ryall and Pedj Bojic allowing him a sight of goal and he powered it past Vedran Janjetovic at the near post.
0-2 Burns (81’) – A sloppy give away in their own defensive third saw McGlinchey pick up possession and feed Burns, who turned Ryall and got a shot away which rolled precisely into the far corner of the net.
Burns struggled to get on the ball in the first half as he was well marshalled by Gersbach and Nikola Petkovic on the Phoenix right. But Merrick shifted him to the left in the second half and it paid dividends, finding more ball and space in key areas and he continued his rich vein of form by grabbing the decisive goal.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Sydney were easily the better side in the first half, enjoying more than 60 percent of possession and having three times the attempts on goal than the visitors. But by the end of the match possession and shots were almost level, underlying how much better Phoenix were after the break to merit their victory.
Sydney conjured the best move of the opening half when Bernie Ibini combined with Marc Janko down the left, cutting the ball back for Shane Smeltz who to strike only to be denied by a courageous low save by Glen Moss in the Phoenix goal. But the danger wasn’t gone as the loose ball fell to Janko who looked certain to score but Moss again recovered to get a touch to the Austrian’s effort, lifting onto the crossbar and away to safety. It was an incredible double-save from the Kiwi international.
Phoenix were on the back foot for much of the first half, forced to play on the break with Sydney controlling large chunks of possession. When they did manage to hit the Sky Blues on the counter midway through the half they got things just right as Michael McGlinchey turned and released Roy Krishna clear through on goal. With Nathan Burns in support and only Sydney ‘keeper Vedran Janjetovic to beat it looked to be a certain goal only for referees assistant Allyson Flynn to incorrectly raise her flag for offside, much to the dismay of Phoenix boss Ernie Merrick on the bench.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Phoenix’s 4-3-3 system allows them to utilise the talents of Albert Riera, Roly Bonevacia and Alex Rodriguez in the middle of the park. But it also proved their undoing especially in the first half as it gave the Sky Blues plenty of space on the flanks, especially through Alex Gersbach and Ibini on the left. It was something the home side exploited on numerous occasions and only some poor crossing and wasteful finishing stopped Sydney from getting the goal which could have swung the game in their favour.
THE FINAL WORD
Sydney don’t have long to find the answers to their current troubles with Westfield FFA Cup holders Adelaide United next up on Boxing Day. Phoenix will certainly enjoy their Christmas lunch following back-to-back wins on the round now and they head home to take on Western Sydney Wanderers FC next Sunday.
Sydney FC: Janjetovic, Bojic (Calver 83’), Ryall, Petkovic, Gersbach (Triantis 77’), Dimitrijevic, Antonis, Ibini, Smeltz, Grant (Naumoff 79’), Janko
Wellington Phoenix: Moss, Fenton (Boxall 84’), Sigmund, Durante, Doyle, Riera, Rodriguez, Bonevacia, Burns (Cunningham 90+3’), McGlinchey, Krishna (Brockie 90’)
Scorers: Burns 73’, 81’
Red cards: none
Yellow cards: none
Conditions: 27C, Dry
Attendance: 14,672 @ Allianz Stadium