When the Wellington Phoenix lose at home you know something
So often during their short A-League history their Westpac
Stadium fortress has helped them to victories but today's 2-0
loss to the Western Sydney Wanderers was a clear indication
that this is a team who are struggling.
Anchored near the foot of the table the Phoenix have now
dropped five of their past seven games and have registered
only one win during that barren spell.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert has tried to implement a more
attacking style of play across the side in recent weeks and
he has introduced young talent in the form of Tyler Boyd and
Louis Fenton but nothing has worked for them this season.
Today's loss was a dire performance that lacked inspiration
and quite often throughout the game you struggled to see
where a goal would come from for the home side.
The game looked as though it was heading to a rare 0-0 draw
but a crafty diving header from Nikolai Topor-Stanley in the
72nd minute helped his side towards the three points.
There were few more unlikely goal scorers on the pitch than
Topor-Stanley and the centre back once went 88 A-League
fixtures without finding the back of the net between 2007 and
Wanderers midfielder Aaron Mooy was the provider and his
well-timed cross in to the box allowed Topor-Stanley to beat
Ben Sigmund to the ball and stun the home crowd of 6608.
Sigmund and Phoenix goalkeeper Mark Paston then produced a
mix-up at the back that allowed Wanderers striker Labinot
Haliti to tap in from close range in the 82nd minute as the
visitors made the game safe.
Paston had enjoyed a great day between the sticks during the
first hour and a bit and he made a string of handy saves to
keep the Wellingtonians in the game and it was hard to blame
him completely for the miscommunication with Sigmund.
Paston's opposite number at the other end of the field, Ante
Covic, was solid for the Wanderers and made one impressive
diving save in the first spell to deny a Vince Lia attempt
that seemed destined for the top corner.
Chances were few and far between for the Phoenix although
Belgian import Stein Huysegems did rattle the crossbar with a
left-footed thunderbolt in the 23rd minute, which could have
sent Wellington's day down a different path.
Huysegems, Boyd, Fenton and Jeremy Brockie were industrious
up front but they lacked cohesion and the Phoenix continued
to rely on attacking down the flanks and knocking in crosses
that the Wanderers dealt with comfortably.
The Phoenix needed to be more direct in their approach but
struggled to break the Wanderers down through the middle of
Admittedly the A-League newcomers are an organised defensive
unit but the Phoenix need to offer more in the future if they
want to pull themselves out of this slump and threaten a
Right now though the post-season looks a long way off and
Herbert will need to fire up his troops if they want to
ignite their faltering season in their next fixture, which
comes against Sydney FC in Australia on Saturday night.
Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Nikolai Topor-Stanley 72, Labinot
Haliti 82) Wellington Phoenix 0 HT: 0-0
- Daniel Richardson of APNZ