Western United have pinched all three points from the Wellington Phoenix in their sixth round Isuzu UTE A-League match at Sky Stadium.
Western captain Alessandro Diamanti scored a stunning free-kick in the fifth minute of second-half stoppage time to secure the reigning champions an unbelievable come-from-behind 3-2 victory.
The Phoenix dominated the majority of the match and led 1-0 at halftime courtesy of Oskar Zawada’s first goal for the club.
Bozhidar Kraev doubled Wellington’s lead inside an hour, shortly before Jacob Tratt gave Western United hope by pulling a goal back.
Serbian striker Aleksandar Prijovic, in his first appearance of the season, came off the bench to draw the visitors level in the 84th minute and then Diamanti won the match with what was virtually the last kick of the game.
Talay: ‘We allowed them to come back into the game’
Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay was understandably disappointed to lose after leading 2-0 at home.
“First half we played a very comfortable game,” Talay told media post-match. “I thought we dominated with the ball, had some good opportunities, went ahead, missed a penalty, got the second one early in the second-half and then from there the game changed.
“We conceded a soft goal from a set piece that allowed them to come back into the game. The second goal was poor marking in the box. We were marking space instead of picking up the player and they score. And the last one is a good free-kick from Diamanti that wins them the game.
“The first half was good, the first probably 10 minutes of the second-half was okay and then after it felt like we allowed them to come back into the game from an easy set piece goal.”
Talay was particularly aggrieved that the Nix weren’t able to bring Tim Payne on as a substitute, moments before Western United equalised.
“The officials’ comms weren’t working for some reason so the fourth official couldn’t get his information across to make the change.
“It’s disappointing at this level that we have to deal with these type of things. At this level that we play had this is not good enough.”
Phoenix start with same line-up from previous week
Ufuk Talay fielded an unchanged XI from the side that started the 4-1 win over Macarthur FC last Sunday. There was just one change on the bench, with Oskar van Hattum replacing Lucas Mauragis, who played for the reserves earlier in the day.
The Phoenix took control from kick-off, controlling possession and creating problems for the Western United back four, with Sam Sutton in particular looking dangerous down the left flank.
Zawada fired an early warning shot, dragging a shot narrowly wide of Jamie Young’s right-hand post in just the second minute.
Kraev twice burst into the Western box in the opening 20, but wasn’t quite able to get on the end of passes from Ben Old and Clayton Lewis.
Kraev turned provider moments later, threading a deflected pass through to Zawada, who smashed a left-footed shot past Young to give Wellington the lead.
Callan Elliot came close to doubling the Nix’s advantage, forcing a full-length save from Western’s ‘keeper after cutting in from the right flank and unleashing a curling left-footed shot.
Penalty miss proves costly
The Phoenix should have scored from the penalty spot six minutes from halftime spot, after Zawada was fouled in the box. Kosta Barbarouses stepped up to take the spot kick, but Young was able to get down low to his left and deny the All Whites forward.
Zawada had one more opportunity before the break, flicking a Lewis cross just wide of the far post.
After being unemployed in the first-half, Oli Sail was called into action five minutes after halftime. He quickly came off his line to smother an effort from Lachlan Wales, who attempted to slide a shot under the Phoenix goalkeeper.
Talay made a double-change up front in the 55th minute, bringing Ben Waine and David Ball on in place of Barbarouses and Zawada.
Shortly after the substitutions Nix finally had their second, with Kraev blasting a right-footed shot past Young after the ball fell to him inside the area.
The two-goal advantage lasted less than a handful of minutes, with centre-back Jacob Tratt heading home a rare Western United corner in the 63rd minute.
Prijovic and Diamanti entered the game a few minutes later and the Italian soon showed his quality by fizzing a volley wide of Sail’s right-hand post.
The Phoenix captain was beaten five minutes later when Prijovic headed home a cross from Benjamin Garuccio.
Diamanti then stepped up deep into time added up and curled a free-kick up and over the wall and inside Sail’s near post.
The sublime set piece secured Western United their first win of the season and moves them off the bottom of the table, while the Nix remain outside the top six.
Game played on Sunday November 13, 2022
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Oskar Zawada 22′, Bozhidar Kraev 59′)
Western United 3 (Jacob Tratt 64′, Aleksandar Prijovic 84′, Alessandro Diamanti 90+5′)
20. Oli SAIL (gk) (c), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES (10. David BALL 55th), 8. Ben OLD (24. Oskar VAN HATTUM 77th), 9. Oskar ZAWADA (18. Ben WAINE 55th), 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 19. Sam SUTTON, 21. Joshua LAWS, 23. Clayton LEWIS.
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 6. Tim PAYNE, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 31. Yan SASSE.
1. Jamie YOUNG (gk), 4. Leo LACROIX, 8. Lachlan WALES (5. Dylan PIERIAS 80th), 9. Dylan WENZEL HALLS (26. Nicolas MILANOVIC 46th), 11. Connor PAIN (23. Alessandro DIAMANTI 67th), 14. James TROISI, 17. Benjamin GARUCCIO, 19. Joshua RISDON (c), 27. Jacob TRATT, 42. Rhys BOZINOVSKI (99. Aleksandar PRIJOVIC 67th), 88. Neil KILKENNY.
Unused substitutes: 37. Ryan SCOTT (gk), 21. Sebastian PASQUALI, 33. Benjamin COLLINS.