Clinical Wellington equal club record unbeaten run
Wellington Phoenix have extended their unbeaten run to a club-record equaling nine games after seeing off Western Sydney Wanderers 2-0 on Saturday.
Ufuk Talay’s side proved clinical in both attack and defence at Sky Stadium as they took the lead early through Ulises Davila’s first-half opener, then saw out the result through a late strike from Liberato Cacace in the second half.
The result lifts the Phoenix to a season’s best third position on the Hyundai A-League table ahead of Perth Glory, who play later tonight.
The Phoenix threatened from the opening minute against the struggling Wanderers but spurned their first chance in just the second minute when Callum McCowatt lashed wide with a volleyed strike.
A raft of half-chances followed for the hosts before Ulises Davila went closer still as he saw his 11th minute drive from the top of the box bounce off the post and across the face of goal prior.
Just minutes later the Mexican had the breakthrough for the hosts as he drilled a strike from outside the box into the bottom corner after being teed up by Gary Hooper.
Spurred into action, the Wanderers sought to stifle the Phoenix threat through increased defensive niggle but despite promising passages of possession had to be patient to fashion a clear scoring chance.
Mitch Duke came closest for the visitors in the opening half – sending a firm, flat effort fizzing past the post in the 38th minute from distance before drawing a save from Stefan Marinovic in the 41st minute – but it proved insufficient to prevent Phoenix holding their lead into the break.
Replicating their flying start, the Phoenix threatened immediately from the restart in the second half as Hooper was played in behind the Wanderers line and saw a shot bounce back of the post before being flagged for offside.
However, the Wanderers’ soon wrested control of possession but remained largely frustrated by the organised Phoenix defence –Patrick Zeigler’s tepid wide effort from range in the 49th minute their only shot prior to the hour.
Markus Babbel rung the changes soon after and it very nearly delivered results as substitute Nicholas Sullivan drew a save from Marinovic in the 63rd minute, before Nicolai Müller headed high then pulled a long-range shot wide just minutes later.
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Those opportunities would prove the best of the half for the visitors despite Kostandinos Grozos and Mitch Duke sending half-chances off target in the 78th and 80th minutes, respectively.
By contrast, the Phoenix remained patient protecting their lead with Steven Taylor and Luke Devere proving formidable in the defensive third until the final whistle.
However, the hosts made sure of the result late through Cacace’s strike in the 88th minute – the fullback cutting inside from the left and converting with a deflected shot.
Davila hits the woodwork early
Lashings of early attacking pressure from the Phoenix nearly delivered results for the Phoenix as Ulises Davila was denied by the woodwork in the 11th minute.
With a blend of tenacity and class in the build-up, Davila’s strike got the better of the outstretched Daniel Lopar in the Wanderers goal, but deflected agonisingly across the face of goal for the home fans.
Phoenix pressure yields early goal
However, Davila didn’t have to wait long to make his early impact tell on the scoreboard for the hosts - converting the opener in the 15th minute.
Showing the promise of his burgeoning attacking partnership with Gary Hooper, the Englishman laid the ball on a platter for the Mexican to drive a low, left-footed finish into the bottom corner for his ninth goal of the campaign.
Müller looks to spark the Wanderers
The visitors fashioned the bulk of the possession in the second stanza but were frustrated by the Phoenix defence and resorted to strikes from distance to find a breakthrough.
Nicolai Müller came closest for the Wanderers in a purple patch shortly after the hour mark, but his shot through traffic flashed wide of the target.
Cacace wraps it up for Wellington
With the Wanderers proving increasingly frustrated, the patient Phoenix capitalised late on to secure the points.
Making one of few forward forays of the match, Liberato Cacace cut inside from the wide on the left with a strong run into the box before his shot took a deflection to get the better of Lopar.
The goal is Cacace's second of the Hyundai A-League season.
Ways to watch
Brisbane Roar v Wellington Phoenix
Saturday, 18 January 2020
Kick off: 4pm local, 5pm AEDT
Western Sydney Wanderers v Perth Glory
Sunday, 19 January 2020
Kick off: 6.30pm AEDT