Soccer: Phoenix take Glory

By Kris Shannon

Paul Ifill of the Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images
Paul Ifill of the Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images

After failing to fire in Wellington, the Phoenix came to Auckland today to grind out a 1-0 win over Perth and begin the road back to playoff contention.

Jeremy Brockie's first half header at Eden Park proved enough for the Phoenix to win their first match of 2013, leaping off the bottom and above Perth on the A-League ladder to sit just one point outside the top six.

It seems incredible that, without a win in five matches, the Phoenix haven't fallen out of reach of finals football but such in the nature of A-League's playoff system.

The hard work has only just begun for the Phoenix, with a trip to leaders Central Coast on Thursday, but they will be pleased to have broken their barren run.

And the result wasn't the only thing improved at the Phoenix's home away from home _ 11,500 fans, almost twice their season average, turned out to watch a match which at times looked like a scrap between the league's two bottom teams.

But the attractiveness of football on display - a real hot button issue for much of the season - matters far less than three points and the Phoenix's first clean sheet in 10 games.

The Phoenix had the better of a flowing first half and may have felt unfortunate to head to the break with only one goal to their name. They were finding success from both flanks and, had the front three been more clinical, the hosts could have had a been further in front.

Ifill, in particular, was exploiting space out wide and delivered a number of dangerous balls into the box but, for all of Wellington's early enterprise, Perth could have taken the lead midway through the half when Chris Harold failed to capitalise on Nick Ward's through ball.

Isaka Cernak was impressing in his first start for the Phoenix, bursting forward from midfield to support the front three, and decent chances he created for Brockie and Ifill were both squandered.

Brockie made no mistake just before the break, though, nodding in a brilliant cross from Ifill after some sparkling dribbling from Cernak started the attack.

Perth started the second spell brighter, though they struggled to truly test Mark Paston in goal. The Phoenix, on the other hand, appeared less adventurous after the break and seemed content to scrap their way to the vital three points.

Louis Fenton, who looked lively after replacing Stein Huysegems, almost made the points safe after fashioning himself a chance but could only blaze wide.

With Leo Bertos forced from the field, Manny Muscat went to right back and Perth almost exploited the change but Scott Jamieson, who leapt high above Muscat at the far post, headed wide across the face of goal.

The Glory had their tails up and the Phoenix seemed set for a nervy final 10 minutes, with all 11 of Perth's players pouring forward searching for the equaliser.

But it never came, leaving the Phoenix to soak up the plaudits from the travelling Yellow Fever.

Phoenix: 1 (Brockie 43)
Perth: 0
HT: 1-0

- APNZ

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