Rudan aiming high as Phoenix continue to rise
Wellington Phoenix coach Mark Rudan believes that his players’ reaction to Friday night’s action-packed 1-1 draw with Melbourne Victory shows how far things have moved on from the depths of last season.
Twelve months ago, the New Zealand team were struggling to make an impression in the Hyundai A-League, eventually finishing in ninth spot on the ladder.
But fast forward to the end of 2018 and Phoenix are knocking on the door of the top four after three wins and a draw in their last four matches, defeating Sydney FC, Central Coast Mariners and Brisbane Roar before taking a point at the home of the Champions.
Phoenix led 1-0 at AAMI Park courtesy of a David Williams stunner, before an equaliser from Ola Toivonen 13 minutes from time ensured a share of the spoils that temporarily put Victory back on top of the Hyundai A-League ladder.
But Rudan, who was appointed in May, insists that his side are aiming high after their recent run of good form.
“I’m a little bit disappointed and a bit greedy as well,” he said.
“When you go 1-0 up you want all three points. But we don’t get carried away. We assess it, we analyse it and we move forward.
“[The players] are down and out. Last year I remember watching Wellington Phoenix against Melbourne Victory. They were up 1-0 and in the [final few] minutes they lost 2-1.
“That’s another big difference in terms of mentality and how much we’ve grown as well. They’re down. I had to lift them up, and that’s a great sign as far as I am concerned.
“We went into this game with a real firm belief. We know that Victory is a good side, playing at home, great momentum.”
“But we had a big belief that we could snatch all three points there and win that game.”
Victory coach Kevin Muscat saw his team earn a valuable point as the Melbourne side looks to retain its title, and he insists that he and his players will not be resting on their laurels or reflecting on the past as 2018 turns into 2019.
“At the death there, to get the goal back against a team that sits deep and has a lot of bodies in the back third, and pushing on to [try to] get the winner was pleasing,” he said.
“I’m asking the players to pay a style of football that’s really difficult. We’re working towards playing a style of football that’s really enjoyable for everybody, for the players as well. It’s not easy.
“I can only think about what’s happening next week. It’s pointless me looking back - it’s no use looking back.
“The Championship is gone. There’s only one Championship that I am interested in and that’s the next one.”