Perth Glory 1
Wellington Phoenix 2
The Wellington Phoenix, it seems, will thrill as much as they frustrate again this season.
Tonight they scored a late winner in a 2-1 defeat of Perth when defensive midfielder Vince Lia claimed his first goal in four-and-a-half seasons just when it seemed the match was petering out to a tame draw. Lia had rarely come close to breaking that drought in more than four years but his 89th-minute strike from a corner was just what Ernie Merrick's side needed.
The result came on the back of their disappointing 2-1 home defeat to Newcastle, when they dominated every facet of the game except for on the scoresheet.
The Phoenix can play some flowing, attractive football. Their frontline adopts a fluid approach with no player restricted to any particular position and the fullbacks are encouraged to get forward at the same time. It can leave oppositions teams wondering how to contain the attack.
But Wellington can also give away some cheap goals it wouldn't be a surprise if they picked up a sponsorship deal with Pak'nSave. Basics like tight man-marking are sometimes neglected and it can cost them dearly.
This contrasting assessment was best summed up in the first 10 minutes.
Wellington started energetically, taking the game to Perth, only to fall behind when they failed to deal with a corner and Gyorgy Sandor slapped it home. Almost immediately, however, Roy Krishna equalised when he shimmied one way and then slotted it into the bottom corner.
It was great entertainment for the neutral but the Phoenix need to be more clinical if they want to be contenders. In the remainder of the opening half, they ferreted out a number of very good chances - no better than the close-range, free header Michael McGlinchey put painfully wide - but couldn't convert.
Perth rarely threatened as they hustled and bustled in a sometimes messy encounter and it seemed a case of whether Wellington could find an opening or would be punished for a mistake at the back. It seemed neither would eventuate until Lia struck.
McGlinchey has made a good start to the season, his poor first-half header notwithstanding, and Roly Bonevacia and his quick feet continue to impress. But Dutch striker Jeffrey Sarpong, who made his first start for his new club tonight, was rarely sighted until substituted on the hour and has some way to go to proving he's the player Merrick hopes he is.
Wellington and Perth are battling for the Long Distance Derby Cup this season, which acknowledges the 5255km between the two cities - the longest distance any club travels in world football - and will be awarded to the best side over all three games this season.
First blood to the Phoenix.
Perth Glory 1 (Gyorgy Sandor 7)
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Roy Krishna 9, Vince Lia 89)