Kosta Barbarouses double keeps Phoenix five points clear in men’s A-League

posted in: A-League (Men), News

The Wellington Phoenix have overcome the absence of five injured players to restore their five-point lead atop the men’s A-League with a 2-1 win against Macarthur in Sydney.

Two goals from in-form forward Kosta Barbarouses inspired the Isuzu UTE A-League win at Campbelltown Sports Ground in Sydney.

Central Coast Mariners’ 1-0 win over Western Sydney Wanderers earlier in the evening had cut Wellington’s lead to two points. But the Nix’s 10th victory of the season keeps them five points clear of Central Coast and moves them eight above third-placed Macarthur.

Main photo: Former Phoenix player Clayton Lewis (left) wins possession for Macarthur.

They did it without regulars Tim Payne, Sam Sutton, Bozhidar Kraev, Nicholas Pennington and captain Alex Rufer, who pulled up lame in the warm-up.

Giancarlo Italiano … ‘the boys took it in their stride.’

“We’re a team first,” Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano told media post-match. “We’re bigger than all the individuals. It’s what has got us through [since] day one.

“We’ve had so many different things thrown at us this week, and it was very easy for the boys to lose focus.

“We lost Rufer five minutes before the game. I was so buoyed by the fact it was like ‘okay, no problem’.

“The boys took it in their stride. Fin Conchie came into the team, and they just applied themselves for 90 minutes.

“The fact that we’re clear at the top of the table and doing well is a testament to the players and their mentality.”

Barbarouses has now scored 10 goals this season and has drawn level with Melbourne Victory legend Archie Thompson as the fifth-highest goal scorer in A-League men’s history.

“He was great,” Italiano said. “I felt it was the perfect conditions for him to play tonight.

“He’s a great leader and … even when I made the sub there towards the end and I said ‘you have to go on the left side and cover’ he didn’t complain, he just did it.

“He deserves all the applause he gets.”

Kosta Barbarouses … taken his season tally to 10 goals. Photo credit: Natural Light Photography Company.

Four changes to starting line-up

Giancarlo Italiano made four enforced changes to the starting XI, with Conchie, Isaac Hughes, Ben Old and Oskar van Hattum replacing the injured quartet of Rufer, Payne, Kraev and Pennington.

Scott Wootton captained the side in Rufer’s absence, while Polish striker Oskar Zawada and new signing Youstin Salas were named amongst the substitutes.

Kick-off was pushed back an hour because of thunderstorms and there was a flashpoint just a few minutes into the match when Macarthur striker Valere Germain appealed for a penalty. After intervention from the video assistant referee, the on-field referee decided to uphold his original decision and not award the hosts a spot kick.

Macarthur had the first few shots of the match in the opening 20 minutes, but none of them tested Alex Paulsen in Wellington’s goal. Jed Drew came closest, finding the side-netting in the 18th minute.

The hosts were otherwise limited to efforts from outside the box and when they did get inside the Phoenix penalty area, their shots were blocked.

Lukas Kelly-Heald then won the Nix a penalty when he was brought down in the box by Macarthur defender Tomi Uskok.

Lukas Kelly-Heald hits the ground and a penalty is awarded.

With Rufer, Wellington’s regular penalty taker, off the pitch, Kosta Barbarouses stepped up the spot and scored, sending their goalkeeper Filip Kurto the wrong way.

Former Phoenix player Ulises Dávila came closest to equalising before halftime, flashing a shot narrowly wide of the left post in the 39th minute.

Dávila again looked dangerous early in the second half, drawing a sharp save from Paulsen and Hughes did well to block Jed Drew’s follow up.

Barbarouses had a great chance to double the Nix’s lead soon after when he was one-on-one with Kurto, but Macarthur’s ‘keeper snuffed out the opportunity.

Old had a gilt-edged opportunity of his own in the 64th minute, when Barbarouses slipped him in behind the Macarthur defence, but he skied his shot.

Kurto was the busier of the two goalkeepers and made a couple of good saves to deny David Ball and then Finn Surman, from long-range and from a corner respectively.

Ball and Old combined to set-up Wellington’s second in the 73rd minute. Old directed Ball’s cross back across goal and Barbarouses scrambled it home at the back post.

Macarthur pulled a goal back five minutes later when Bernardo produced a quick touch and shot in the Phoenix box.

The hosts had the lion’s share of possession for the remaining 12 minutes plus stoppage time, but had little to show for it.

Paulsen was called into action just once to make a regulation save as substitute Jerry Skotadis shot through a sea of bodies in the 85th minute.

The Nix otherwise defended resolutely and professionally closed out the game to seal the three points.

Salas made his debut, playing the final half an hour plus time added on, and impressed Italiano.

“I thought he gave us a lot of energy. He won a lot of ball, moved the ball forward for us and was good.

“Hopefully it’s a preview of what’s going to come.”

The Wellington Phoenix will travel to Perth on Monday to prepare for Saturday’s match against Perth Glory.

Match highlights


Game played on Sunday February 18, 2024

Macarthur 1 (Bernardo Oliveira 78′)
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Kosta Barbarouses 31′ pen, 73′)


Table at 10.30pm (NZT) on Sunday February 18.


Macarthur FC

12. Filip KURTO (gk), 4. Matthew JURMAN, 6. Tomislav USKOK, 8. Jake HOLLMAN, 10. Ulises DAVILA (c), 13. Ivan VUJICA (3. Tommy SMITH 79th), 20. Kealey ADAMSON (24. Kokola M’MOMBWA 71st), 21. BERNARDO (36. Ali AUGLAH 79th), 23. Clayton LEWIS (27. Jerry SKOTADIS 79th), 37. Jed DREW (31. Lachlan ROSE 71st), 98. Valere GERMAIN.

Unused substitutes: 1. Danijel NIZIC (gk), 14. Kristian POPOVIC.

Wellington Phoenix

40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON (c), 5. Fin CONCHIE (17. Youstin SALAS 61st), 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD (9. Oskar ZAWADA 79th), 10. David BALL, 12. Mohamed AL-TAAY, 18. Lukas KELLY-HEALD, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM (43. Matt SHERIDAN 61st), 26. Isaac HUGHES.

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


23. Clayton LEWIS (Macarthur FC) – yellow – 22′
10. David BALL (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 24′
24. Oskar VAN HATTUM (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 42′
26. Isaac HUGHES (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 54′
24. Kokola M’MOMBWA (Macarthur FC) – yellow – 75′
17. Youstin SALAS (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 90+4′
9. Oskar ZAWADA (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 90+4′


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