Wellington Phoenix 3
Brisbane Roar 2
For all the gloom surrounding the future of the Wellington Phoenix, the product they're providing in the present has rarely been brighter.
Ernie Merrick's men tonight silenced the critics from across the Tasman, producing a sparkling attacking display to defeat the table-topping Brisbane Roar.
Well-taken goals from Michael McGlinchey and Roy Krishna saw the Phoenix on the verge of back-to-back victories early in the A-League campaign and, after the visitors had drawn level, substitute Blake Powell secured all three points with 10 minutes remaining.
The Phoenix played some inspired football throughout the encounter, at times bossing a side who had greatly impressed in the opening two weeks. And with injured skipper Andrew Durante soon returning to add solidity at the back, there's every reason to think last year's fourth-place finish can be replicated, at least.
Merrick's master plan, when correctly implemented, sees the Phoenix mix spells of patient possession with attacks of real impetus, creating threats from all over the field and making a mockery of those wondering what exactly the Kiwi club bring to an Australian competition. Raised again this week, many of those concerns must be focused exclusively on off-field matters, because Wellington's performance on the pitch engenders no such doubts.
The Phoenix continually performed tonight as if they, instead of their opponents, came into the contest on top of the table. While Brisbane certainly contributed to a high-quality clash, the Phoenix were unfazed whenever the Roar enjoyed a dominant patch.
Nor were they worried when their weight of possession failed to prevent them from falling behind to Dimitri Petratos' fine strike, spoiling an opening half hour in which the home side were the first to impose themselves.
The Phoenix were making good gains in the wide channels, with Tom Doyle particularly dangerous when over-lapping down the left, but they were equally capable at switching the point of attack at a moment's notice.
Their attacking menace produced a couple of good chances for Krishna and saw Jeffrey Sarpong enjoy his best touches for his new club, with Michael McGlinchey's spectacular free kick providing fitting reward for all the enterprise.
Roly Bonevacia was at his creative best while excelling in close quarters, manufacturing enough half-openings for Wellington to feel deserving of a second goal. And it eventually arrived in the second spell when Krishna exchanged passes with Sarpong to finish a rapid break, leaving the Phoenix on course to triumph.
That course did contain a few rough patches, though, with Brisbane proving equally dangerous when they found fluidity in the final third. A little inaccuracy and a little brilliance from Glen Moss kept the Phoenix in front, but the pressure being applied soon saw Jade North convert from a corner to level the scores.
Thankfully for the Phoenix, Powell's timely intervention decided the outcome, keeping at bay questions about the club's viability for another week.
Wellington Phoenix 3 (M. McGlinchey 35, R. Krishna 49, B. Powell 78)
Brisbane Roar 2 (D. Petratos 26, J. North 60)