The Wellington Phoenix’s unbeaten run has come to an end with a 3-1 loss to Melbourne Victory in the Isuzu UTE A-League.
The Victory’s win at AAMI Park in Melbourne handed the Phoenix their first defeat in five matches.
The hosts scored three unanswered goals after inform striker Oskar Zawada gave the Nix a dream start, scoring his fifth goal in as many games to equal the club record set by Tomer Hemed in 2021.
Main photo: The Phoenix concede their first goal when Bruno Fornaroli levels despite the efforts of ‘keeper Oli Sail and his defenders.
It is just the second defeat the Phoenix have suffered in Australia this season and head coach Ufuk Talay is disappointed to have dropped points.
“I don’t think we did enough to get the three points tonight,” Talay told media post-game.
“I thought we started off the game quite well. I thought we were controlling the game with the ball.
“We scored a fantastic goal and got ourselves up and then just one moment in transition we allow them to break and let them come back into the game.
“But after that I thought to be honest we were second best at most times.
“Even though I thought we weren’t as good in the second-half we still could have got ourselves back into the game and maybe got a point out of the game, but obviously the error for the third goal killed us.”
Post-match comment — Ufuk Talay
Talay was at a loss to explain the team’s performance but felt the increased expectations on the Phoenix may have affected the players.
“It was a weird one. In the changing room it was quite quiet before the game.
“I don’t know if the boys were a little bit timid tonight.”
Ufuk Talay made just the one enforced change to his starting XI, bringing in 19-year-old defender Finn Surman to replace the suspended Tim Payne at centre back. Reserves captain Isaac Hughes was included amongst the substitutes.
Zawada didn’t take long to register his record-equalling fifth goal in as many games. Just 12 minutes into the match the Polish striker slipped in between two Victory defenders and expertly headed a pinpoint Josh Laws cross back across goal and into the far corner of Melbourne’s goal.
It was the Phoenix’s first shot on target, after Zawada had missed the mark with an attempt from outside the box a handful of minutes earlier.
The Nix were in control in the opening 30 minutes but a wayward long-range shot from Steven Ugarkovic was all they had to show for their dominance.
The Victory levelled little over half an hour into the match. Oli Sail spectacularly saved a point-blank shot from Josh Brillante, but unfortunately for Sail the ball fell to the feet of prolific Uruguayan striker Bruno Fornaroli, who was also to sweep home the rebound past the diving Wellington ‘keeper and through a sea of desperate defenders.
Fullback Lucas Mauragis had a chance to restore the Phoenix’s lead moments later but he was unable to test Matthew Acton in the hosts’ goal after being slipped into the box.
It was their last goalscoring opportunity before halftime. The Victory finished the half the stronger of the two sides and created a couple of chances without testing Sail further.
Talay made a change at the break, bringing on young playmaker Ben Old in place of Bulgarian international Bozhidar Kraev.
He soon found his side 2-1 down after a bit of brilliance from Victory playmaker Jake Brimmer. Brimmer produced a top quality free-kick, picking out the top left-hand corner of Wellington’s goal after referee Adam Kersey contentiously penalised the Nix five yards out from the top of their box.
Zawada had the chance for a near immediate response, but this time he wasn’t able to head a Kosta Barbarouses cross on goal.
Wellington were also off target with their feet midway through the second-half and Talay responded by making changes. Barbarouses and Mauragis made way for Yan Sasse and Sam Sutton and then a handful of minutes later Nicholas Pennington and Oskar van Hattum replaced club captain Alex Rufer and an injured David Ball, who was struck on the hand by a powerful shot from Fornaroli.
In between the substitutions Brimmer came within inches of doubling the Victory’s lead, striking the Phoenix’s left-hand post.
An off target long-range effort from Ugarkovic was the closest the Nix came to levelling before time added on.
They found themselves 3-1 down early in stoppage time after a mix-up between Surman and Sail allowed Melbourne substitute Tomi Juric to practically walk the ball into the back of the net.
Some of Wellington’s best chances came at the death, with Acton producing a great save to keep out a powerful Pennington header from close-range, but they ultimately weren’t able to add to Zawada’s early goal.
The Wellington Phoenix have three more matches on the road this month. They will return home on Saturday before turning their attentions to their round 16 match against Macarthur FC on Sunday week.
Game played on Friday February 3, 2023
Melbourne Victory 3 ( Bruno Fornaroli 32′, Jake Brimmer 54′, Tomi Juric 90+1′)
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Oskar Zawadar 13′)
1. Matthew ACTON (gk), 2. Jason GERIA, 3. Enrique LOPEZ (28. William WILSON 89th), 6. Leigh BROXHAM (23. Nathan KONSTANDOPOULOS 90+2), 8. Joshua BRILLANTE (c), 10. Bruno FORNAROLI (9. Tomi JURIC 86th), 11. Ben FOLAMI (29. Eli ADAMS 90+2), 21. Roderick MIRANDA, 22. Jake BRIMMER, 24. Nishan VELUPILLAY (16. Stefan NIGRO 89th), 31. Matthew BOZINOVSKI.
Unused substitutes: 30. Ahmad TALEB (gk), 33. Ryan LETHLEAN.
20. Oli SAIL (gk), 3. Finn SURMAN, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES (31. Yan SASSE 71st), 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL (24. Oskar VAN HATTUM 78th), 11. Bozhidar KRAEV (8. Ben OLD 46th), 12. Lucas MAURAGIS (19. Sam SUTTON 71st), 14. Alex RUFER (c) (13. Nicholas PENNINGTON 78th), 17. Callan ELLIOT, 21. Joshua LAWS.
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 37. Isaac HUGHES.