Unbeaten run comes to end for Phoenix in scorching heat of Melbourne

posted in: A-League (Men), News

Three-time champions Melbourne City have handed the Wellington Phoenix their third defeat of the men’s A-League season.

City beat the Phoenix 1-0 on a scorching evening at AAMI Park in Melbourne, ending Wellington’s 10-match unbeaten run.

Despite the Nix’s first defeat of 2024, they remain three points clear at the top of the ladder, for the time being at least.

Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano was far from downcast when he spoke to media post-match.

“It’s unrealistic to think you can win every game,” Italiano said. “And every time we’ve come here we always struggle to get a result. It’s a hard place to play.

“I thought we had some good patches in the game. It was a pretty even game the first half. I think they probably had some better chances.

“I think we had a couple of chances, but in the end they probably deserved to win.”

And he believes there are positives to take from the defeat.

“You learn a lot more out of defeat than you do through victory.

“I think the last time we lost to Sydney, we learnt a lot from that, Newcastle as well.

“Defeat is a really good thing in terms of any team wanting to progress. It can’t be all roses all the time. There needs to be some fall in order to hit the heights that you want.

“This is a good lesson for us that if we play like that now for the rest of the season, that’s not going to be enough … to get the points that we need.”

Tim Payne takes on the Melbourne City defence.

One change to starting line-up

Giancarlo Italiano made just one change to the XI which started Sunday’s 3-2 win over Adelaide United, with top goal scorer Kosta Barbarouses replacing Mo Al-Taay. Fit-again midfielder Nicholas Pennington and teenager Gabriel Sloane-Rodrigues were brought on to the bench.

City had the better of the early possession and had three shots on goal in the first 10 minutes but none of them threatened Alex Paulsen’s goal.

Paulsen was tested soon after and made a superb point-blank save to keep out a header from young City forward Max Caputo.

He snuffed out another opportunity for Caputo in the 26th minute with help from Phoenix centre back Finn Surman.

Barbarouses had registered the first shot on target in the 10th minute when his half-volley bounced kindly into the arms of City goalkeeper Jamie Young.

The Nix were otherwise unable to test Young in the first half, with their limited shots either blocked or wide of goal. Ben Old came closest in the 41st minute when he blazed narrowly over the bar from a tight angle.

The hosts had the final four shots before the break. Three of them fell to Marin Jakolis, but all of them were blocked, the last superbly so by Surman.

The second half started in a similar fashion with City continuing to create the majority of the goalscoring chances, and Paulsen made a comfortable save at his near post in the 57th minute to keep out a shot from Vicente Fernandez.

His teammate Samuel Souprayen finally broke the deadlock moments later, heading home a well-worked short corner at the back post.

Main photo: Samuel Souprayen heads the ball into the Phoenix net from a tight angle.

Samuel Souprayen (centre) earns the plaudits of teammates after his goal.

Finn Surman ensured City weren’t able to double their lead in the 71st minute, making a brilliant goal-line clearance after Caputo had managed to clip his shot over Paulsen.

Italiano brought on Al-Taay, Pennington and Sam Sutton in the second half as the Phoenix pressed for an equaliser, and they started to create more goalscoring opportunities.

Their best chance fell to Kosta Barbarouses in the 81st minute. Bozhidar Kraev slipped the veteran forward in behind the hosts’ defence with a perfectly weighted pass, but Barbarouses put his shot wide of the right-hand post.

The Nix made a further change late in normal time, bringing on Sloane-Rodrigues to make his A-League debut. At 16 years and 250 days he has become the youngest player in Wellington Phoenix history, comfortably eclipsing Libby Cacace, who was 17 years and 128 days when he made his debut.

Despite his and Wellington’s best endeavours, they were unable to find a late equaliser and the fulltime whistle signalled their first defeat of the year.

The Wellington Phoenix will return home tomorrow before turning their attentions to next Saturday’s much-anticipated match against a resurgent Sydney FC at Eden Park.

Match highlights


Game played on Saturday March 9, 2024

Melbourne City 1 (Samuel Souprayen 58′)
Wellington Phoenix 0


Table at 7am (NZT) on Sunday March 10.


Melbourne City

1. Jamie YOUNG (gk), 4. Nuno REIS (c), 6. Steven UGARKOVIC, 8. James JEGGO, 10. Tolgay ARSLAN (21. Alessandro LOPANE 76th), 11. Leo NATEL (15. Andrew NABBOUT 69th), 14. Vicente FERNANDEZ (38. Harry POLITIDIS 76th), 25. Callum TALBOT (17. Terry ANTONIS 69th), 26. Samuel SOUPRAYEN, 37. Max CAPUTO (9. Jamie MACLAREN 76th), 44. Marin JAKOLIS.

Unused substitutes: 33. Patrick BEACH (gk), 22. Curtis GOOD.

Wellington Phoenix

40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 10. David BALL (15. Nicholas PENNINGTON 68th), 11. Bozhidar KRAEV, 14. Alex RUFER (c) (51. Gabriel SLOANE-RODRIGUES 89th), 17. Youstin SALAS (12. Mo AL-TAAY 60th), 18. Lukas KELLY-HEALD (19. Sam SUTTON 68th).

Unused substitutes: 25. Jack DUNCAN (gk), 5. Fin CONCHIE, 26. Isaac HUGHES.


8. James JEGGO (Melbourne City) – yellow – 15′
17. Youstin SALAS (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 39′
7. Kosta BARBAROUSES (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 70′
26. Samuel SOUPRAYEN (Melbourne City) – yellow – 72′
15. Andrew NABBOUT (Melbourne City) – yellow – 79′
14. Alex RUFER (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 82′
44. Marin JAKOLIS (Melbourne City) – yellow – 84′


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

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