Belief powers the Phoenix to men’s A-League win against Perth Glory

posted in: A-League (Men), News

Wellington Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano says his players have built the belief they can get back into any game, demonstrated by their fighting 4-3 win against Perth Glory.

The Phoenix won the seven-goal men’s A-League thriller at CommBank Stadium in Sydney in a wet and wild finish to the inaugural Unite Round, with Kosta Barbarouses scoring a brace either side of rare goals from Alex Rufer and Tim Payne.

Main photo: Kosta Barbarouses congratulates Tim Payne after Payne levelled the score at 3-3.

Wellington’s seventh win of the season lifts them above Melbourne Victory and three points clear of the chasing pack.

The two sides will meet in a mouthwatering top-of-the-table match at Sky Stadium on Friday night.

Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano praised his side’s mentality after they Nix fell behind early and saw Perth twice draw level in the second half.

“I think we’ve now built the belief that we can come back into any game,” Italiano told media post-match.

“Even at three-all I was like ‘we’re going to make a chance it’s just whether we capitalise and we breakthrough’.

“I’m pleased for the group that they can do that. That puts us in good stead because I feel like if you can’t battle through those moments, you’re going to drop a lot of points throughout the season.”

Kosta Barbarouses … continues his hot form in front of goal.

Barbarouses has now scored eight goals in his past five matches to jump to equal second in the Golden Boot race.

“I don’t find this a surprise,” Italiano said. “He’s been on the end of a lot of chances this season and for whatever reason in the early rounds it just wasn’t clicking for him, but now he has confidence and he’s back to his old self.

“I’m delighted for him. He’s been the best pro for us. He’s a great leader off the park.

“He mentors a lot of these young guys, not so much by what he says, but by what he does. He doesn’t complain [and] he applies himself at training.”

Two changes to starting line-up

Giancarlo Italiano made two changes to the XI which started the 2-2 draw at Adelaide United, with Sam Sutton and David Ball returning to the starting line-up in place of Lukas Kelly-Heald and Ben Old. Kelly-Heald and Old were named amongst the substitutes which also included New Zealand U-17 international Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues.

Ball had the first chance of the match in the fifth minute, forcing a good save from Glory ‘keeper Cameron Cook, who turned the English forwards’ left-footed snap shot around his left post.

The Phoenix found themselves a goal down moments later when Adam Taggart expertly picked out the top corner with a header from near the penalty spot.

Adam Taggart (left) … put Perth ahead with a well-placed header.

Perth had the next three shots at goal in the next quarter of an hour but none of them were able to test Alex Paulsen in Wellington’s goal.

The Nix started to take control of the match midway through the first half and Barbarouses equalised shortly before the half hour mark when he cut into the box and slotted a left-footed shot past Cook.

Confidence grew for the Phoenix after the goal, Bozhidar Kraev nodding just wide after meeting an inviting cross from Barbarouses before Ball saw his shot deflected after latching onto a Payne cutback.

Wellington were finding space down the flanks and were able to deliver regular crosses. The best saw Barbarouses glance a header wide of the far post.

Mo Al-Taay also had a shot blocked in the box before Rufer put the Phoenix in front with virtually the last kick of the first half.

The Glory hesitated for a moment when the Nix appealed for a penalty and the loose ball fell to the Wellington captain who rifled home his shot from outside the box into the far corner of Perth’s goal.

Alex Rufer soaks up the applause from Phoenix fans after he opened the scoring for his team.

The second period saw more attacking football, Taggart’s low driven attempt was pushed away comfortably by Paulsen to open the half.

Perth then equalised with a brilliant strike in the 50thminute, centre back Aleksandar Susnjar hammering the ball into the top corner from long range.

Wellington reclaimed the lead when Barbarouses turned creator, cutting the ball back from the left byline where Payne crunched his first-time effort through a sea of defenders and into the Glory net.

The goal spurred the Nix on, and Kraev forced a sharp stop at the near post from Cameron Cook after Rufer chipped a lovely pass over the Perth defenders.

As the rain intensified, the game opened up, and Perth found another equaliser in the 70th minute when substitute Jarrod Carluccio roofed his attempt with just his second touch.

It took just three minutes for Barbarouses to restore the Wellington lead, Payne providing a delicious cross for him to poke beyond Cook. Rufer was again involved, picking out Payne with a wonderful slide rule pass.

Kosta Barbarouses displays his traditional goal celebration.

Italiano brought on some fresh legs for the final quarter of an hour, with Ben Old and Lukas Kelly-Heald replacing Al-Taay and Sutton.

Perth had most of the possession during the final stages, and earned some dangerous set pieces. Luke Ivanovic came closest, heading over from a corner.

Increased pressure prompted Italiano to introduce centre back Isaac Hughes for Kraev in the 85th minute, shoring up the Wellington backline.

The Glory were reduced to launching the ball into the box from deep, and Paulsen authoritatively claimed a number of crosses to see out the game.

Perth Glory squander a late chance to snatch a draw.

There was one final chance for Taggart to square the ledger four minutes into injury time, but his volley on the turn skewed left and the Nix held on to secure another valuable three points.

The Wellington Phoenix will quickly turn their attention to Friday night’s match against Melbourne Victory at Sky Stadium.

Match highlights


Game played on Sunday January 14, 2024

Perth Glory 3 (Adam Taggart 7′, Aleksandar Susniar 50′, Jarrod Carluccio 70′)
Wellington Phoenix 4 (Kosta Barbarouses 29′, 73′, Alex Rufer 45+2′, Tim Payne 57′)


Table at 12am (NZT) Monday January 15.


Perth Glory

13. Cameron COOK (gk), 2. John KOUTROUMBIS (17. Jarrod CARLUCCIO 68th), 3. Jacob MUIR, 8. Mustafa AMINI (4. Luke BODNAR 64th), 10. Salim KHELIFI (9. David WILLIAMS 68th), 12. Luke IVANOVIC, 14. Riley WARLAND, 15. Aleksandar SUSNJAR, 20. Giordano COLLI, 22 Adam TAGGART (c), 23. Daniel BENNIE (19. Trent OSTLER 68th).

Unused substitutes: 1. Oli SAIL (gk), 27. Jayden GORMAN, 28. Kaelan MAJEKODUNMI.

Wellington Phoenix

40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV (26. Isaac HUGHES 85th), 12. Mohamed AL-TAAY (8. Ben OLD 74th), 14. Alex RUFER (c), 15. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 19. Sam SUTTON (18. Lukas KELLY-HEALD 74th).

Unused substitutes: 25. Jack DUNCAN (gk), 5. Fin CONCHIE, 23. Luke SUPYK, 51. Gabriel SLOANE-RODRIGUES.


19. Sam SUTTON (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 53′
3. Finn SURMAN (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 65′
11. Bozhidar KRAEV (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 82′


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

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