‘Sensational’ Hooper showed Premier League quality says ‘Nix boss Talay
Ufuk Talay hailed Gary Hooper’s ‘best performance’ in Wellington Phoenix colours in the 1-0 win against Melbourne City at Eden Park.
The 32-year-old has turned out 13 times in the Hyundai A-League but made it through the full 90 minutes for only the second time on Saturday after rebuilding his match fitness.
Head coach Talay labelled the burly English forward’s all-action display as ‘sensational’ as Hooper provided a constant threat to the City backline, as well as delivering a pin-point cross for Wellington’s winner.
David Ball’s 58th-minute strike proved to be the difference in the Phoenix's second home, in Auckland, and Talay singled out the goal provider for special praise.
“I thought [Hooper] was sensational,” Talay said.
“I thought he set up a great goal for [David] Bally and, for me, you can see why he played in the Premier League.
“For me, that’s his best performance.”
Hooper played 34 times in the Premier League for Norwich City between 2013 and 2015 and showed signs of finding his best form since arriving in the Kiwi capital in October 2019.
And his Phoenix teammates stood up to post an assured performance to knock off second-placed City, with Talay praised his side’s bravery in possession despite a few errors which could have allowed City a route back into the game.
“I asked those players to play those passes and sometimes it’s not going to come off,” he said.
“For me, they showed the courage to continue to play those passes and that’s the brand of football we want to play so there’s going to be mistakes.
“As long as we don’t get hurt by those mistakes, we’ll continue too play the same brand.”
City head coach Erick Mombaerts admits he was disappointed that City failed to stamp their mark on the match in first half.
“I wasn’t happy at half-time because we want to control the game better but we didn’t manage to do this in the first half,” Mombaerts said.
“If was difficult because it was windy, we played against the wind in the first half. That is why Wellington managed to press us high… so we did not create enough chances.
“We had a good chance with Jamie [Maclaren]. Maybe it would change the game but we didn’t score and after we make a big mistake on a throw in and we conceded.”
Wellington Phoenix v Western United
Friday, 21 February
Kick-off: 7.15pm local, 5.15pm AEDT
Melbourne City on bye