Season over for the Phoenix after Elimination Final loss to Adelaide United

posted in: A-League (Men), News

The Wellington Phoenix’s men’s A-League season is over after a 2-0 loss to Adelaide United in the Elimination Final.

It is the fourth elimination final defeat in five years for the Nix, while Adelaide progress to a home and away semi-final against Central Coast Mariners.

The home side, roared on by the Coopers Stadium crowd, won with a goal in each half from Socceroo Craig Goodwin.

Main photo: Craig Goodwin belts his penalty up the middle to make it 2-0 to Adelaide United.

Wellington mistakes led to both of Goodwin’s goals, the second of which came from the penalty spot.

The Phoenix only managed two shots on target in the match; one in the opening seconds and the second in second half stoppage time, but captain Alex Rufer also hit the post on the stroke of halftime, coming within inches of levelling the scores.

Ufuk Talay … his last game with the Phoenix.

“Two mistakes cost us two goals,” Talay told media post-match. “One we didn’t clear the ball and the second one we didn’t kill the game from our set piece and allowed them to get in our box.

“We had an opportunity from a set piece where the ball hits the post and doesn’t go in.

“I thought we were in the game, even at 1-nil. To concede the second goal the way that we did is very disappointing.

“Overall, I think we played a good game. They were clinical in two moments from two big mistakes of ours and we walk away losing the game two-nil.”

Game brings down curtain for Talay and trio of players

The defeat signals the end of Talay’s four years in charge of the Nix, while a number of Wellington players, including Oli Sail, Clayton Lewis and Steven Ugarkovic have played their final game for the club.

“It’s been a challenging four seasons to be honest. Being away for two seasons, based in Australia, because of Covid was challenging times, but there were a lot of moments for growth for myself.

“I have a lot of gratitude towards this club. They gave me my first opportunity as a head coach to showcase my talents.

“I’ve worked alongside some very special people, and I’ll watching from afar.”

He believes he’s leaving the club in good hands, with assistant coach Giancarlo “Chiefy” Italiano to take over next season.

“The club’s in a fantastic spot at the moment. They’ve got a good core group of players that are retained for next season. That’s something for Chiefy to build on.

“Facilities-wise and academy-wise, the club is in a fantastic space. The club’s heading in the right direction and is in a fantastic place moving forward.”

No changes to last week’s starting line-up

Ufuk Talay named the same XI which started last week’s 1-0 win over Macarthur FC. There was one change on the bench, with Finn Surman replacing fellow centre back Nikko Boxall, who didn’t travel to Adelaide because of illness.

It was an action-packed start to the elimination final.

Adelaide goalkeeper Joe Gauci was called into action little over 60 seconds into the match, forced to make a sharp save to his right after Oskar Zawada won possession high up the park and unleashed a powerful left-footed shot from the edge of the area.

Moments later the Reds had their first opportunity with fullback Javi Lopez heading wide at the back post from the first corner of the match.

Adelaide started dominating possession while the Phoenix were dangerous in transition. Kosta Barbarouses produced a great right-wing cross in the 12th minute, but Gauci was able to beat Zawada to the ball, punching to clear away the danger.

The Nix found themselves a goal down from the Reds’ first shot on target little over half a dozen minutes later, when the visitors failed to clear a right-wing cross. Goodwin pounced, cutting onto his less-favoured right foot and curling a shot into the far corner of Wellington’s goal.

The hosts continued to dictate terms after taking the lead, without testing Phoenix ‘keeper Oli Sail. Striker George Blackwood and defender Nicholas Ansell both headed dangerous crosses off target.

The Nix finished the first half the stronger of the two sides. Yan Sasse pulled a shot narrowly wide of Gauci’s left-hand post from outside the box, before Zawada went down in the Adelaide box but had his penalty claim waved away by referee Alireza Faghani.

The Reds then rode their luck in time added on. Rufer struck the post from a corner, and it rebounded off Lopez and, fortunately for the hosts, into the arms of his ‘keeper.

Alex Rufer hits the post in his side’s best chance of the game.

Talay had to make his first substitution at halftime with Barbarouses forced off with an apparent hamstring strain and replaced by Bozhidar Kraev.

The second half started how the first finished, with the Phoenix pressing for an equaliser. Adelaide made two crucial blocks in their box to deny goal-bound shots from first Scott Wootton and then Kraev.

But with their speed the Reds always looked dangerous on the counter and they broke quickly from a Nix free-kick on the edge of the area to earn a penalty in the 65th minute and give themselves an opportunity to double their lead.

Goodwin duly stepped up to the spot after winning the penalty and slotted his shot up the middle after Sail dived to his right.

Craig Goodwin takes the plaudits from the home crowd after making it 2-0 from the penalty spot.

Wellington searched for a way back into the match, but struggled to break down a well-organised and desperate Adelaide defence. And every time the Phoenix pushed numbers forward they were susceptible in transition with Reds substitute Nestory Irankunda a regular threat.

The closest the Nix came to getting on the scoresheet in normal time came in the 71st minute when Zawada looped a header narrowly over the far corner of Adelaide’s goal, after Kraev delivered a threatening left-wing cross.

Gauci only had to make one save in the second half and it came in the fifth and final minute of time added on when Wellington substitute Clayton Lewis struck a powerful shot in the box. He stopped it acrobatically to keep the clean sheet and seal the Reds’ progression beyond the first round of the finals.

The Wellington Phoenix will make the long journey home on Saturday before soon turning their attentions to next season.



Game played on Friday May 5, 2023

A-League Elimination Final

Adelaide United 2 (Craig Goodwin 19′, 67′ pen)
Wellington Phoenix 0


Adelaide United

46. Joe GAUCI (gk), 3. Benjamin WARLAND, 4. Nicholas ANSELL (13. Lachlan BARR 86th), 6. Louis D’ARRIGO, 7. Ryan KITTO, 8. ISAIAS, 11. Craig GOODWIN (c), 14. George BLACKWOOD (9. Hiroshi IBUSUKI 64th), 18. Jay BARNETT (66. Nestory IRANKUNDA 64th), 21. Javi LOPEZ, 26. Benjamin HALLORAN (55. Ethan ALAGICH 86th).

Unused substitutes: 1. James DELIANOV (gk), 35. Luka JOVANOVIC, 36. Panashe MADANHA.

Wellington Phoenix

20. Oli SAIL (gk), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC (24. Oskar VAN HATTUM 86th), 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES (11. Bozhidar KRAEV 46th), 9. Oskar ZAWADA, 10. David BALL, 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 14. Alex RUFER (c) (23. Clayton LEWIS 68th), 17. Callan ELLIOT, 31. Yan SASSE.

Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Finn SURMAN, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 21. Josh LAWS.


7. Ryan KITTO (Adelaide United) – yellow – 34th
31. Yan SASSE (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 80th
11. Bozhidar KRAEV (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 83rd
26. Benjamin HALLORAN (Adelaide United) – yellow – 85th
55. Ethan ALAGICH (Adelaide United) – yellow – 90+1


This story is published with the help of the Wellington Phoenix.

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