A lone second half goal from in-form striker Nathan Burns has handed Wellington Phoenix a hard fought 1-0 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers on Friday night.
A largely even match had its major highlights late in the piece with Burns’ 79th minute strike followed by a continuation of Ante Covic’s recent heroics when he saved Michael McGlinchey’s late penalty.
The loss – their third straight to start the 2014/15 A-League season – consigned the Western Sydney Wanderers to another week at the foot of the ladder while the Phoenix have climbed to the giddy heights of fourth after their third win of the campaign.
79 minutes – Nathan Burns
Roly Bonevacia picked up the ball in midfield and set substitute Roy Krishna free inside the penalty area. Instead of shooting, the Fijian flier cleverly crossed for Burns to rifle home from six yards.
With the scores locked at 0-0 midway through the second half, Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss pulled off a point-blank save in the six-yard box after a goalmouth scramble to deny Matthew Spiranovic the opening goal. It was the key contribution to the Phoenix’s first clean sheet in seventeen A-League matches.
Opta Data key stats
The stats tell the tale of an even contest with territory, possession, the number of passes and passing accuracy very similar for both sides. The Phoenix had the slight edge in shots on goal, including the crucial strike from Burns which ultimately separated the two teams.
The longer the game went, the more it felt like one moment of magic – or one error – would decide it. Bonevacia’s tenacity in midfield and precise pass into Krishna’s path was matched by the striker’s awareness to slide a sideways pass for Burns, rather than attempt a shot on goal himself.
After the agony of a dislocated shoulder which severely limited his participation last season, young defender Louis Fenton dislocated the opposite shoulder during a heavy challenge, which is likely to see him out for weeks, if not months.
The Final Word
While Tony Popovic refused to blame an arduous travel schedule and emotionally and physically taxing past fortnight, there were signs of fatigue in the Wanderers’ legs in the last quarter of the game.
The Phoenix continue to build on the most impressive start in their history and will be buoyed ahead of a tough road trip to Adelaide and Perth, during which they’ll be without their New Zealand internationals. The Phoenix’s passing game continues to catch the eye and no team will fancy a visit to Wellington in the weeks ahead.
Wellington Phoenix: Moss, Fenton (Boxall), Sigmund, Durante, Muscat, Riera, Bonevacia, Rodriguez (Krishna), Lia, McGlinchey, Burns.
Western Sydney Wanderers: Covic, Mullen, Spiranovic, Topor-Stanley, Adeleke, La Rocca, Trifiro, Fofanah (Haliti), Castelen, Juric, Rukavytsya (Sotirio).
Scorers: Burns 79
Red cards; n/a
Yellow cards: Phoenix: Rodriguez, Durante; Western Sydney Wanderers: Covic, Topor-Stanley
Conditions: Calm, 13 degrees