More milestones tumble as Wellington Phoenix end regular season on a high

posted in: A-League (Men), News

The Wellington Phoenix have capped their record-breaking men’s A-League regular season with a milestone victory.

The Phoenix have beaten Macarthur FC 3-0 in front of 15,428 fans at Sky Stadium in Wellington thanks to first-half goals from Kosta Barbarouses and Tim Payne and a stoppage-time penalty from Oskar Zawada.

It’s the Nix’s 15th win of the 2023-24 Isuzu UTE season – the most the team have recorded in a campaign, and takes Wellington’s points haul to 53, seven more than their previous best.

“This probably won’t sink it for a while with me,” Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano told media post-match.

“I’m very proud of everyone that’s worked here. From day one we’ve always had big obstacles placed in front of us.

“We have a good club structure, good people [and] we’ve just got on with it.

“It’s been no-nonsense, and the fact that we’ve come so far is a testament to everyone.”

The record points tally might not be enough for the Phoenix to win the Premiers’ Plate, with Central Coast Mariners beating Newcastle Jets 3-1 in their penultimate round-robin match to remain just a point off the competition lead and ensuring the premiership will be decided on Wednesday night.

It left Italiano with an uneasy feeling after the match, but he was quickly cheered up the fans when they came down from the stands for a club photo on the pitch.

“You kind of forget sometimes the impact you have with fans. I don’t think I’ve had that many selfies in my life!

“That was the best side of football because you realise you touch so many people that you don’t meet and then they have an opportunity to come and meet their favourite players and staff.”

Fans gather on the pitch for a special photo with their Phoenix team.

Central Coast need just a draw from their final regular season match against Adelaide United on Wednesday to claim the premiership and the Nix are all but resigned to finishing second on the ladder.

“I’m more focused on training now for the semi-finals.

“We have our awards night on Tuesday. It’ll be a celebration of the club, of the achievements we’ve done this year [and] a good time to get together.

“And then Wednesday I guess everyone will be watching where they’re comfortable. It’s going to be a late kick-off as well. I want the players in bed early so we can train [the next day].”

Two changes to starting line-up

Giancarlo Italiano made two changes to the XI, which started last week’s 1-1 draw against Newcastle Jets, with Nicholas Pennington and David Ball replacing Mo Al-Taay and Youstin Salas, who were named among the substitutes.

The Phoenix had some success down the left flank in the opening exchanges, with Sam Sutton and Ben Old linking well.

Sutton volleyed over the bar in the seventh minute and Old registered the first shot on target moments later with a curling effort with his less-favoured right foot that was comfortably held by Macarthur ‘keeper Filip Kurto.

Nix forward David Ball found the back of the net in the 13th minute after Kosta Barbarouses slipped in behind the visitors’ defence, but the goal was rightly ruled out for offside.

Barbarouses timed his run expertly nine minutes later when Nicholas Pennington found the veteran forward with a perfectly-weighted ball over the top of Macarthur’s last defender.

He rounded Kurto and slotted home into the empty net to send the crowd into raptures. Their joy was dampened soon after as Alou Kuol scored to give Central Coast a 1-0 lead at Newcastle.

Kosta Barbarouses … his goal set a new personal milestone.

It was Barbarouses’ milestone 93rd A-League men’s goal, taking him to fourth on the all-time list and making him the highest scoring New Zealander in competition history.

Tim Payne doubled Wellington’s lead shortly before the half hour mark with a thumping header after Old stood up a cross to the back post.

There were few goalscoring opportunities for the remainder of the half but the Phoenix held a deserved 2-0 lead at the break.

The crowd was brought to their feet again early in the second half as news spread about another goal in Newcastle, this time by Jets striker Apostolos Stamatelopoulos, drawing them level with the Mariners.

There was little goalmouth action in the 15 minutes after halftime at Sky Stadium, with Macarthur grabbing a greater share of possession without testing Alex Paulsen in Wellington’s goal.

Sutton looked the likeliest for the Nix, first curling a right-footed shot narrowly wide of goal in the 70th minute before seeing a volley deflect just off target seven minutes later.

The Mariners reclaimed the lead against Newcastle shortly after the Yellow Fever took their shirts off and added a third to win their match 3-1.

Oscar Zawada is brought down in the box. The substitute scored from the resulting penalty.

Oskar Zawada had the final say at Sky Stadium, winning a penalty and then converting from the spot in stoppage time to complete a 3-0 win for the Phoenix.

As well as awaiting the result of Central Coast’s final match on Wednesday night, the Wellington Phoenix will await their semi-final opponent with the elimination finals next weekend.

Tickets for the semi-final second leg at Sky Stadium will go on sale next week.

Match highlights


Game played on Saturday April 27, 2024

Wellington Phoenix 3 (Kosta Barbarouses 22′, Tim Payne 29′, Oscar Zawada 90+2′ pen)
Macarthur 0


Table at 4am (NZT) on Sunday April 28.


Wellington Phoenix

40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 3. Finn SURMAN, 4. Scott WOOTTON, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 8. Ben OLD, 10. David BALL (17. Youstin SALAS 71st), 11. Bozhidar KRAEV (24. Oskar VAN HATTUM 81st), 14. Alex RUFER (c), 15. Nicholas PENNINGTON (9. Oskar ZAWADA 87th), 19. Sam SUTTON.

Unused substitutes: 25. Jack DUNCAN (gk), 12. Mo AL-TAAY, 18. Lukas KELLY-HEALD, 43 Matt SHERIDAN.

Macarthur FC

12. Filip KURTO (gk), 4. Matthew JURMAN, 6. Tomislav USKOK, 10. Ulises DAVILA (c), 13. Ivan VUJICA, 14. Kristian POPOVIC (7. Daniel DESILVA 46th), 20. Kealey ADAMSON (27. Jerry SKOTADIS 61st), 23. Clayton LEWIS, 22. Charles M’MOMBWA (18. Walter SCOTT 61st), 37. Jed DREW (16. Oliver JONES 61st), 98. Valere GERMAIN (31. Lachlan ROSE 70th).

Unused substitutes: 1. Danijel NIZIC (gk), 52. Ariath PIOL.


37. Jed DREW (Macarthur FC) – yellow – 40′
14. Alex RUFER (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 54′
17. Youstin SALAS (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 84′
9. Oskar ZAWADA (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 87′


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