Football: Wellington Phoenix into playoff spot after stunning victory

By Niall Anderson

Wellington Phoenix 3 Melbourne Victory 0
Roly Bonevacia of the Phoenix is congratulated on his goal. Photo / Getty
Roly Bonevacia of the Phoenix is congratulated on his goal. Photo / Getty

"Can you do it on a windy Tuesday night in Wellington?"

For the Melbourne Victory, the answer is an emphatic no as the Wellington Phoenix claimed an excellent win over one of the A-League's heavyweights.

Their 3-0 triumph was completely deserved, and moved the club into the playoff spots for the first time this season.

Backing up from Saturday's victory over Central Coast, Melbourne loomed as a much more dangerous opponent for the steadily improving Phoenix.

Though the Victory were riding a nine match unbeaten streak, the Nix had made a mini-resurgence of their own, having lost just one of their six games under new coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre.

Their progress was encapsulated in a performance that was a drastic reversal from the last time the two sides met, on Halloween, when the Victory battered the spooked Phoenix 6-1.

That result was a blight on a season in which the Phoenix have been largely competitive but rarely overwhelming. An improved defensive core has seen the Phoenix in their fair share of close contests, but a return of just 15 goals in 14 games limited their point accumulation.

It was a lack of production which belied the big-name attacking talent they had on offer, all players who had been productive in the past, but perhaps missing an incisive midfield presence to aid their efforts.

Those qualms were swept aside tonight in a dangerous display, where the Phoenix found continued success attacking down the flanks.

They promised plenty from within the first 30 seconds, when Kosta Barbarouses played a one-two, receiving the return on his shoulder, and swivelling a shot goalbound.

Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas was equal to the task, but the early action turned out to be a signifier of what was to come.

The right flank was the busiest attacking avenue throughout the night, but the first goal came literally out of left field as Roy Krishna fizzed in a cross which was turned home by Roly Bonevacia for his first goal of the season.

The contest was messy at times as neither side could control the centre of the park, but the Phoenix's defensive core proved solid, with the Victory taking 60 minutes to get a shot on target.

That shot - a Leigh Bloxham volley - nearly levelled the scores, but Phoenix custodian Glen Moss was on hand to make a top drawer save.

Melbourne continued to press and had the better of chunks of the second spell, but the hosts held steady, forcing the Victory to send players further forward in search of an equaliser.

When they did, the Phoenix struck on the counter.

After several spurned chances to seal the deal, the superb Jacob Tratt popped up to send the home fans into delirium, and Barbarouses deservedly put the cherry on top with a third goal in the dying stages.

Phoenix 3 (Bonevacia, Tratt, Barbarouses goals)
Victory 0
Halftime: 1-0 ​​

- NZ Herald

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