Soccer: Victory comes at a cost as Phoenix lose Sigmund

By Terry Maddaford

Ben Sigmund of the Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images
Ben Sigmund of the Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images

Maybe not quite ugly, but the record-breaking 1-0 win the Wellington Phoenix scored over 10-man Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium yesterday certainly was not pretty. It also came at a cost.

While Ricki Herbert's team are into the top six, they now face, after a week off, two tough games in four days on the road - both without key defender Ben Sigmund.

Arguably their player of the season, Sigmund was booked by referee Chris Beath 11 minutes from time for what seemed an innocuous challenge. As it is his eighth card of the season, Sigmund will miss two games.

Again, discipline was an issue for the Phoenix with Andrew Durante, Troy Hearfield, Vince Lia and Manny Muscat also yellow-carded in the second half but at least they kept 11 players on the park unlike the Jets, who had Ryan Griffiths sent off in the 66th minute for abusing Beath.

There was plenty riding on the game - played in front of a healthy 10,000-plus crowd - but rarely did the Phoenix threaten to turn in another of the emphatic efforts they displayed beating the same team 4-0 just before Christmas.

It was a club record fifth-straight home win for the Phoenix but again showed there is a massive gulf between top-of-the-table Brisbane Roar and the teams who will fill the fifth and sixth play-off spots.

Adding to the woes of the Phoenix is their awful away record as all their play-off games, should they hold their top six spot, will be played across the Tasman.

It was little surprise that the Marco Rojas-Dylan Macallister double-act was the game-breaker for the home side.

Twenty minutes into the game in which the hosts had been overly hesitant, Rojas made a great run on the right before carving in and playing the ball in to Macallister, who met it on the run and deftly clipped home to continue his late season goalscoring deeds.

But too often the Phoenix were forced to scramble to deny the visitors as the Jeremy Brockie-led Jets attack threatened to break through. The square Phoenix defence was helped by Brockie's enthusiasm, which too often led to him being caught offside.

In his halftime summary, injured Phoenix star Paul Ifill admitted, "We are fortunate to be in front".

Four minutes into the second half it could well have been tied up when Marco Jesic snapped a shot out of nothing which smacked on to the upright. Encouraged by that, the visitors kept pressing. After failing to force one corner in the first half, they soon had three and a couple late in the game but failed, much to the relief of the Phoenix, to convert.

On the hour Griffiths almost snatched a spectacular equaliser when he launched himself into an overhead attempt only to be denied by what proved a match-saving reflex save from Phoenix goalkeeper Danny Vukovic.

Both teams had half chances as the clock wound down but without seriously threatening to score. The Phoenix had more possession but failed to make much of it especially in the attacking third where they were often bereft of ideas.

Rojas, starved of the ball for long periods, looked dangerous at times but overall it was not the kind of showing Herbert would have wanted as the business end of the season looms.

- NZ Herald

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