Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Soccer: Phoenix bounce back in style

Manny Muscat celebrates with Wellington's Costa Rican connection during their 4-1 win over Central Coast. Photo /Getty
Manny Muscat celebrates with Wellington's Costa Rican connection during their 4-1 win over Central Coast. Photo /Getty

Don't worry about the Wellington Phoenix, their season is still on track.

Despite being hammered 5-0 by the Melbourne Heart in the capital last Sunday, Wellington bounced back in perfect fashion with a 4-1 win over the Central Coast Mariners across the Tasman tonight.

After being down 1-0 at halftime, a dominant second spell saw Wellington draw level and then take the lead as they earned a valuable three points as they continued their surge towards the A-League playoffs.

After last week's defeat, Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick made a couple of changes as he brought Tyler Boyd back in to his starting line-up, while Manny Muscat moved from left back to a defensive midfield position, which gave Reece Caira an opportunity in defence.

Wellington's first-half effort was a throwback to their first 10 games of the season when they went without a win as they dominated the early stages of the contest but couldn't finish their opportunities.

Striker Stein Huysegems had a golden chance in the third minute but didn't make the best of it after being played in to the box by Carlos Hernandez, while Kenny Cunningham latched on to a Hernandez free kick but put his header wide in the 15th.

But just as Wellington looked like they were settling in to the game Bernie Ibini opened the scoring for the home side when he turned a fine shot inside the left-hand post in the 20th minute as the Mariners went up 1-0.

But the second spell belonged to Wellington and Cunningham then squared the argument at 1-1 in the 47th minute after a deflected Caira cross fell to him at the top of the box.

The Costa Rican international then wasted no time in dispatching a bullet shot past Mariners keeper Liam Reddy.

As neither side was able to gain the ascendancy, the Mariners earned a bizarre penalty as Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante committed a handball in the box when his arm was outstretched as he was appealing for a free kick as he believed Caira had been fouled.

Moss made a terrific save though as he denied Mile Sterjovski's strike, which proved a turning point in the game.

That save inspired the visitors and Wellington took the lead when Hernandez delivered a stunning goal from outside the box in the 64th minute and then Huysegems shot to the top of the golden boot standings as he scored his 10th of the season only a minute later.

From being level at 1-1 to 3-1 up in the space of a minute or so gave the Phoenix an obvious boost in confidence and Moss was again at his best as he denied Sterjovski from close range with 15 minutes left.

Substitute Jeremy Brockie then scored his fourth of the season in the 82nd as Wellington completed the record-setting rout.

The victory moved Wellington in to sixth on the A-League ladder but that could change depending on the outcome of the clash between Sydney FC and Newcastle tomorrow.

Wellington Phoenix 4 (Kenny Cunningham 47, Carlos Hernandez 64, Stein Huysegems 65, Jeremy Brockie 82)
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Bernie Ibini 20)
Halftime: 0-1

- APNZ

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on production apcf01 at 19 Dec 2014 21:26:37 Processing Time: 422ms