Finn Surman’s last gasp goal takes Phoenix back to the top of the A-League

posted in: A-League (Men), News

The Wellington Phoenix have reached new heights in the men’s A-League, reclaiming top spot and securing the club’s highest regular season finish with two rounds to play.

The Phoenix have beaten Melbourne Victory 1-0 on a wet night at Sky Stadium in Wellington, thanks to Finn Surman’s 95th-minute match winner.

Main photo: Finn Surman turns away from the Victory goal after his header has hit the net to win the game for the Phoenix.

The result lifts the Nix to 49 points, three clear of the premiership rivals Central Coast Mariners and eight above third-placed Victory, meaning Wellington are guaranteed a top-two finish and a bye in the first week of the Isuzu UTE A-League finals.

“It’s a little bit surreal,” Phoenix coach Giancarlo Italiano told media post-match.

“This is the highest amount of points the club has ever achieved [and] the highest position they’ve achieved, and I’m stoked now that we’re going to have an opportunity to play at home in front of a Wellington crowd to get to a grand final.

“The accolades deserve to go to the players, not myself.

“I want the group to do the most they can do as a group and there’s a lot of belief with these guys. I just want to keep pushing them and making sure they don’t regret this opportunity.

“Am I stoked? Yes, I am. But again, it’s not about me, it’s more about the club.”

The shirts come off in stoppage time as Phoenix fans celebrate Finn Surman’s goal.

The result also puts the pressure back on Central Coast in the race for the Premiers Plate. The Mariners visit Western United on Saturday.

“That’s the whole idea. I think even a draw would have put pressure on them because they know they have to win.

“One thing we expressed is if we can get the win, we put pressure on them and then it takes the focus off us again.

“Maybe a good thing is them winning tomorrow [as] it will keep our guys on their toes for next week. Whatever challenge we get we’ll prepare for.”

Three changes to starting line-up

Giancarlo Italiano made three changes to the XI which started last week’s 2-1 defeat at Central Coast, with captain Alex Rufer, All Whites fullback Tim Payne and midfielder Mo Al-Taay returning to the side in place of Nicholas Pennington, Matt Sheridan and Lukas Kelly-Heald.

Victory had a couple of early corners but weren’t able to threaten the Phoenix goal from either.

The Nix looked the more threatening of the two sides in what was a surprisingly open first half played in persistent rain.

Al-Taay had the first shot of the match in the eighth minute after some good lead-up work from Bozhidar Kraev, but his effort from the edge of the visitors’ box was straight at Victory ‘keeper Paul Izzo.

Izzo wasn’t troubled a handful of minutes later either when he was called upon to make his second save as Youstin Salas slipped as he shot, again from outside the penalty area.

Victory had the next three shots in the next quarter of an hour, but all of them were blocked by the ever-resolute Wellington defence.

The Phoenix had a chance to break the deadlock in the 34th minute when Kosta Barbarouses got in behind the visitors’ back four and delivered a cutback to the edge of the six-yard box. Unfortunately for the Nix Ben Old was unable to make proper contact with his first-time shot and sent it wide.

Melbourne forward Ben Folami flashed an effort into the side netting five minutes out from halftime. It was the only one of Victory’s first half attempts on goal that wasn’t blocked.

Old looked to create a breakthrough in time added on when he got to the byline and stood up a cross but it eluded all of his Wellington teammates and it remained scoreless at halftime.

Finn Surman had the Phoenix’s first opportunity of the second half when he flicked on a Kraev header from a corner, but again the shot was straight at Izzo.

Old curled a shot with his less-favoured right foot narrowly wide of the right post soon after as the Nix got back into their rhythm.

Wellington looked the more likely side to end the stalemate but they struggled to find the final pass to unlock the visitors’ defence.

Kraev also shot just wide to the right in the 75th minute and it appeared it just wouldn’t be the Phoenix’s night.

Alex Paulsen made a crucial save in the 78th minute.

Alex Paulsen was largely unemployed in Wellington’s goal but he made a crucial save in the 78th minute to push a shot from Victory striker Bruno Fornaroli around his left-hand post.

The rest of the action game in second half stoppage time.

Ben Old poked a shot wide of goal in the third minute of time added on after Melbourne ‘keeper Paul Izzo parried Barbarouses’ free-kick into Old’s path.

Two minutes later the Nix finally broke the Victory’s resistance. Substitute Oskar van Hattum delivered a pinpoint right-wing free-kick and Finn Surman won the physical battle with his opposite Roderick Miranda and found the back of the net, sparking wild scenes at Sky Stadium.

While dubbed an own goal in some quarters, Surman claimed his maiden A-League goal and celebrated in style.

The Wellington Phoenix will watch Central Coast Mariners on Saturday night before turning their attentions to next Friday night’s match against Newcastle Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium.

Match highlights


Game played on Friday April 12, 2024

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Finn Surman 90+5′)
Melbourne Victory 0


Table at 11.45pm (NZT) on Friday April 12.


Wellington Phoenix

40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 6. Tim PAYNE (15. Nicholas PENNINGTON 63rd), 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV (24. Oskar VAN HATTUM 82nd), 12. Mo AL-TAAY (10. David BALL 56th), 14. Alex RUFER (c), 17. Youstin SALAS, 19. Sam SUTTON.

Unused substitutes: 25. Jack DUNCAN (gk), 5. Fin CONCHIE, 18. Lukas KELLY-HEALD, 43 Matt SHERIDAN.

Melbourne Victory

20. Paul IZZO (gk), 2. Jason GERIA, 3. Adama TRAORE, 5. Damien DA SILVA, 8. Zinedine MACHACH (14. Connor CHAPMAN 76th), 10. Bruno FORNAROLI, 11. Ben FOLAMI (7. Chris IKONOMIDIS 63rd), 18. Fabian MONGE (28. Roly BONEVACIA 64th), 19. Daniel ARZANI (24. Eli ADAMS 86th), 21. Roderick MIRANDA (c), 22. Jake BRIMMER (23. Salim KHELIFI 76th).

Unused substitutes: 30. Ahmad TALEB (gk), 6. Leigh BROXHAM.


6. Tim PAYNE (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 31′
18. Fabian MONGE (Melbourne Victory) – yellow – 33′
10. David BALL (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 65′
5. Damien DA SILVA (Melbourne Victory) – yellow – 90+1′


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

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