Advantage swings to Mariners as Wellington Phoenix drop points in Newcastle

posted in: A-League (Men), News

The Wellington Phoenix have regained the lead of the men’s A-League table but have been unable to restore their three-point margin over title rivals Central Coast Mariners.

The Phoenix have been held to a 1-1 draw by the Newcastle Jets at McDonald Jones Stadium in Newcastle to move just a point clear of Central Coast Mariners in the premiership race.

Kosta Barbarouses scored his 12th goal of the season midway through the second half to draw the Nix level after the Jets snatched an early lead.

Wellington captain Alex Rufer had the chance to win the match from the penalty spot deep in stoppage time, but his attempt found the outside of the right post.

“Of course, it’s disappointing,” Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano told media post-match. “When you miss a penalty in the last minute I think that goes without saying.

“I was mainly disappointed, not because of the penalty miss, but the amount of chances we didn’t capitalise [on].”

Giancarlo Italiano … ‘sometimes the football gods smile on you and sometimes they don’t …’

Italiano was happy with his side’s response after they trailed 1-0 at halftime.

“We made the changes, the intent was fantastic in the second half and it was probably some of the best football we’ve played for a long time.

“We created a lot of chances and sometimes the football gods smile on you and sometimes they don’t.

“I feel as though if we played that game over 10 times we probably would have won that game 5 or 6-1.”

The Nix will remain atop the table heading into the final weekend as Central Coast’s penultimate round match, originally scheduled for Sunday, has been postponed.

READ MORE: Travel problems disrupt fixtures schedule to decide men’s A-League >>>>

“I probably would have been happier if we won the game because it would have put pressure on Mariners.

“But again the football gods, as you saw tonight, it doesn’t always go to script.

“If we can go home, put on a display [and] get the result then it puts pressure on Mariners to win both games, or win one and draw one.”

No changes to starting line-up

Giancarlo Italiano named the same XI which started last Friday night’s dramatic win over Melbourne Victory. There was one change on the bench with fit-again striker Oskar Zawada replacing young midfielder Fin Conchie.

Finn Surman, the match-winner last week at Sky Stadium, was called upon to do his defensive duties early in Newcastle, making a big block to snuff out an opportunity for prolific Jets striker Apostolos Stamatelopoulos.

The hosts camped themselves inside the Phoenix half in the opening exchanges and earned five corners in the first six minutes. But none of them tested the Wellington defence.

The Nix enjoyed a good spell of possession after the early onslaught and Bozhidar Kraev fired a warning shot narrowly wide of the left post in the 15th minute.

Moments later, Newcastle took the lead with Phoenix goalkeeper Alex Paulsen, unfortunately turning Lachlan Bayliss’ cutback into the back of his own net.

Goalkeeper Alex Paulsen is forlorn after he diverts the ball into his own net for an own goal.

Wellington dominated possession for the remainder of the half but weren’t able to test Jets ‘keeper Ryan Scott until the 33rd minute, when Scott turned a powerful left-footed shot from Mo Al-Taay around his right post.

Kosta Barbarouses shot narrowly off target from a tight angle on the right-hand side of the box soon after and Youstin Salas blazed over the bar in the 44th minute.

Alex Rufer also called Scott into action in first half stoppage time with a skilful chest and volley.

But it was Newcastle who came closest to scoring before halftime when Bayliss cut into the box and fired a left-footed that was crucially blocked by Surman.

Italiano made two attacking changes at halftime, bringing on forwards David Ball and Oskar van Hattum in place of midfielders Al-Taay and Salas.

First half frustration for the Phoenix …

The substitutions had their desired effect with the Phoenix turning more of their possession into goalscoring opportunities.

Ryan Scott made a great save three minutes into the second half to keep out a thunderous shot from Sam Sutton and Barbarouses headed over the bar moments later.

The Jets threatened sporadically on the counter-attack as the Nix pushed numbers forward and Stamatelopoulos blasted a shot against the crossbar in the 55th minute and then curled a shot narrowly wide of the right post.

Otherwise, Newcastle were camped in their half for most of the second 45. Scott made another acrobatic save on the hour mark to keep out a header from Barbarouses after Jets defender Phillip Cancar produced a crucial tackle to deny van Hattum in the penalty area.

Ryan Scott made a sharp save with his feet to keep out an effort from Ben Old in the 63rd minute, with Old then rattling the near post soon after.

Carl Jenkinson, like Cancar, made a great last-ditch tackle midway through the second half to prevent Barbarouses from going one-on-one with Scott.

The veteran forward finally broke Newcastle’s resistance in the 71st minute. Kosta Barbarouses thought he had missed his chance when he sliced a left-footed shot wide of goal, but Old kept the ball in play and delivered a cross to the back post where Barbarouses took his head out from in his hands to equalise.

The cushioned header brought him level with fellow countryman Shane Smeltz into fourth on the all-time list of A-League men’s goal scorers with 92.

Barbarouses came within inches of giving Wellington the lead in the 78th minute when he got on the end of a well-floated ball from Bozhidar Kraev and rattled the near post.

Oskar Zawada was brought on soon after and he headed a cross and a corner narrowly off target in two of his first involvements.

The Phoenix then appealed for a penalty in the second minute of stoppage time as Jenkinson looked to have handled a Wellington free-kick. It was eventually awarded following intervention from the video assistant referee and Alex Rufer stepped up to the spot.

It’s a handball in the Jets penalty area, and the Phoenix are eventually awarded a spot kick.

Unfortunately for Rufer and the Nix his penalty found the outside rather than the inside of the right post and Newcastle held on to claim a point.

The Wellington Phoenix will travel home tomorrow before quickly turning their attentions to their final round match against Macarthur FC at Sky Stadium on Saturday night.

Match highlights


Game played on Friday April 19, 2024

Newcastle Jets 1 (own goal 15′)
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Kosta Barbarouses 71′)



Newcastle Jets

1. Ryan SCOTT (gk), 8. Apostolos STAMATELOPOULOS (c), 13. Clayton TAYLOR, 14. Dane INGHAM, 17. Kostandinos GROZOS (6. Brandon O’NEILL 81st), 18. Daniel STYNES (7. Trent BUHAGIAR 64th), 19. Callum TIMMINS, 22. Phillip CANCAR, 23. Daniel WILMERING, 25. Carl JENKINSON, 37. Lachlan BAYLISS (3. Jason HOFFMAN 73rd).

Unused substitutes: 20. Michael WEIER (gk), 26. Archie GOODWIN, 27. Nathan GRIMALDI, 29. Justin VIDIC.

Wellington Phoenix

40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 6. Tim PAYNE (15. Nicholas PENNINGTON 90th), 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV (9. Oskar ZAWADA 84th), 12. Mo AL-TAAY (10. David BALL 46th), 14. Alex RUFER (c), 17. Youstin SALAS (24. Oskar VAN HATTUM 46th), 19. Sam SUTTON.

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


19. Callum TIMMINS (Newcastle Jets) – yellow – 17′
22. Phillip CANCAR (Newcastle Jets) – yellow – 65′
25. Carl JENKINSON (Newcastle Jets) – yellow – 65′
4. Scott WOOTTON (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 68′
14. Dane INGHAM (Newcastle Jets) – yellow – 90+6′


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