Courtesy Wellington Phoenix
The Wellington Phoenix have earnt their first win tonight with a riveting 2-1 victory against Central Coast Mariners, thanks to a solid effort by Ulises Dávila in the first half and Jaushua Sotirio’s go-ahead goal just before full time – not to mention an outstanding defensive performance from Nix goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.
The welcome return of Alex Rufer to the line-up also saw Clayton Lewis back in a starting role, with coach Ufuk Talay electing to use speedster Sotirio as an impact player off the bench.
The match would kick off in wet conditions with possession evenly shared in the first 10 minutes, with both sides content to feel each other out. An early attempt by James McGarry would be off target, and a pair of chances by the Mariner’s Matt Simon would also be thwarted.
Ulises Dávila would strike first at the 15 minute mark, with a brilliant strike from just outside the box - taking a clever pass from Tomer Hemed to rocket one home past a sliding Mark Birighitti, putting the Nix up 1-0 early.
It would be Davila’s second goal of the season and Hemed’s first assist; also only the second goal given up so far this season by the Mariners stingy defense, which had included three clean sheets in its first four matches.
Dávila would have more chances before the half; an attempt at 25 minutes sailing over the net, and then a free kick he was unable to convert after David Ball was taken down outside the box.
It would be 19-year old Alou Kuol who would equalise for the Mariners at 40 minutes, heading home his third goal of the season off of a set piece to bring Central Coast back into the match.
Marinovic would palm away a last-ditch attempt by the Mariners just before 45 minutes, taking the Phoenix into half-time all squared up at one apiece; the Nix looking in control thanks to strong performances from McGarry, Dávila and Cameron Devlin in particular.
The second half would again see both teams trading possession in the first ten minutes; Kuol almost picking up a second goal but blowing his opportunity in front of the goal.
The Mariners would continue to put pressure on the Phoenix, taking control of possession for much of the second half. A ten minute span would see the Mariner’s Oliver Bozanic unsuccessful on three occasions thanks to a swarming Marinovic; the imposing goalkeeper dominating in goal as part of a strong second-half defensive performance by the Phoenix.
DeVere would make the defensive play of the match at the 87 minute mark, preventing an opportune goal attempt by Jordan Smylie. That effort would allow the Phoenix to recover and go on the attack minutes later, with Rufer chipping a perfect pass to a blazing Jaushua Sotirio for his first goal of the season – putting the Nix up 2-1 just before 90 minutes.
The Phoenix would hold on to win the match 2-1 for their first win of the 2020/21 A-League season, and coach Ufuk Talay says that the club will “take the three points and move on.”
“Those three points are important to build confidence within the group, to get that boost,” said Talay.
“The first half we were really really good, we played really good football; the second half was totally different but I’m pleased with the boys being able to fight and grind and get the final result.
“It’s a cliched game of two halves; we played well the first half and the Mariners attacked in the second half, but I’m very pleased with our defensive performance tonight – they put a lot of balls into the box that we dealt with, and they resorted to shooting from distance which Stefan dealt with comfortably as well.”
Talay also had praise for Sotirio’s contribution off the bench tonight.
“You want your subs to come on and make an impact and he [Sotirio] came on to score the winner – he was very effective for us and most importantly we walk away with the three points.
“Jaushua is effective when he has space and he’s got a lot of pace to go in behind – Rufer played a ball over the top with a great finish from [Jaushua].”
The Phoenix will now have eight days to prepare for their next match, away to Sydney FC at Netstrata Stadium on Monday 8 February, with Wellington looking to seek revenge for their 2-1 loss against Sydney back in Match Week 2.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 3.Luke DEVERE, 5.James MCGARRY, 6.Tim PAYNE, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA(c), 14.Alex RUFER, 17.Tomer HEMED, 21.Joshua LAWS, 23.Clayton Lewis
Central Coast Mariners Starting XI
1.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 5.Stefan NIGRO, 6.Gianni STENSNESS, 8.Oliver BOZANIC (c), 10.Daniel DESILVA, 11.Jack CLISBY, 14.Daniel BOUMAN, 15.Kye ROWLES, 19.Matt SIMON, 21.Ruon TONGYIK, 29.Alou KUOL
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
61’ ON 15.Mirza MURATOVIC OFF 23.Clayton LEWIS
83’ ON 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO OFF 9.David BALL
90+1’ ON 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI OFF 10.Ulises DAVILA
Central Coast Mariners Substitutions
54’ ON 26.Jaden CASELLA OFF 14.Daniel BOUMAN
70’ ON 30.Jordan SMYLIE OFF 29.Alou KUOL
70’ ON 12.Marcos UREÑA OFF 19.Matt SIMON
90’ ON 22.Michal JANOTA OFF 10.Daniel DESILVA
15’ Ulises DAVILA (Wellington Phoenix)
41’ Alou KUOL (Central Coast Mariners)
88’ Jaushua SOTIRIO (Wellington Phoenix)