Soccer: Phoenix sound A-League warning

By Terry Maddaford

Tim Brown of the Phoenix competes with Jesus Mendez of Boca Juniors during the pre-season friendly match at Westpac Stadium. Photo / Getty Images
Tim Brown of the Phoenix competes with Jesus Mendez of Boca Juniors during the pre-season friendly match at Westpac Stadium. Photo / Getty Images

A fully-deserved win for the Wellington Phoenix over Argentina's Boca Juniors at Westpac Stadium last night will send early warning signs to their A-League rivals.

It was only a pre-season "friendly" and the visitors ended the match a man short after their captain was dispatched but that could take nothing away from a resolute Phoenix showing.

And, in giving some new faces some game time Ricki Herbert showed he might have unearthed a gem or two.

Maybe it was an omen when Herbert joined Michael Campbell and Sir Peter Jackson was given the freedom of his adopted city before kick-off in recognition of his deeds with the national side starting with the epic 1-0 World Cup qualifying win over Bahrain on the same ground last November.

From the outset, and with the swirling wind and rain making life difficult, both sides were tentative before Marcelo Canete, who scored the fabulous goal in the 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory en route to Wellington, unlocked the Phoenix defence as they backed off their tackles before, with only Mark Paston to beat, dragging his attempt wide.

Minutes later he fired another straight into Paston's hands.

But it was at the other end the first goal came.

Paul Ifill cleverly switched play with a long ball to Leo Bertos wide on the right. He picked out Chris Greenacre who gathered neatly before slipping the ball to former Central Coast striker Dylan Macallister who deftly touched the ball into the Boca Juniors goal.

It was the second early-season strike for newcomer Macallister after his earlier effort which helped the Phoenix to their 2-1 win over Brisbane Roar in their pre-season opener in Hamilton.

Hurt by that 25th minute, not undeserved, goal, the visitors lifted their game but without seriously testing the Phoenix defence as they struggled to find the right weight on their final passes.

It was a useful workout for the home side in the opening 45 minutes with the front three of Ifill, Macallister and Greenacre quickly showing they could be one of the most potent attacks when the A-League kicks-off.

The midfield trio of Bertos, Vince Lia and Tim Brown gave nothing away with Brown showing no ill effects of the injury which sidelined him at the World Cup. Again he rode the fine line in some tackles and early in the second half picked up the inevitable booking.

Defensively Manny Muscat, in an unfamiliar left-back role in place of the injured Tony Lochhead did well as did captain Andrew Durante. Troy Hearfield hardly flattered early on at right back but later settled as he got the game time he and many of his team-mates obviously need before they start their campaign proper.

Paston, under little pressure, was accomplished in continuing from where he left off at the World Cup.

The visitors showed patches of the football expected from one of South America's leading club sides but it was the Phoenix who scored again when, on the hour and just four minutes after replacing Bertos, Daniel floated a free kick to the far post from where Durante nodded home.

An own goal from Durante gave Boca late hope but nothing could take anything away from an encouraging Phoenix showing.

FULL TIME
Phoenix 2
Boca Juniors 1

- NZ Herald

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