The Wellington Phoenix have dropped their first game of the new A-League season, going down 1-0 to expansion team Western United.

It meant that Mark Rudan enjoyed a triumphant return to the capital, after his controversial departure from the Phoenix in April, with a year remaining on his contract.

The result was no surprise, given the respective rosters on display, with Rudan parading a team full of seasoned experience, along with some genuine marquee talent.

The new-look Wellington showed some promising signs, especially a few of their youngsters, but the learning curve will be steep, given they face Sydney FC and Perth Glory over the next two weeks.


The decisive goal was disappointing, as Besart Berisha found space amongst a crowd of defenders in the penalty area, but the Melbourne side were good value for their win.

They were more dynamic on attack, and coped with almost everything the Phoenix threw at them.

This was the start of yet another Phoenix era, as Ufuk Talay took charge of his first match, the club's fifth head coach since Feburary 2013.

In front of an impressive crowd, Wellington showed plenty of energy and endevour, without the finished product. That was no surprise, given the massive turnover of players in the off season, and the departure of Roy Krishna and David Williams, who between them provided 30 goals in the last campaign.

In the first half the Phoenix tried to keep the ball, and often recycled possession, but probably overdid it. Their build-up was laboured, and too much done well behind enemy lines.

In contrast the Melbourne side were more incisive, as would be expected with the likes of former Italian international Alessandro Diamante and Croatian Dario Jertec.

From the start the visitors had looked more assured in possession without creating too many clear cut chances, but converted in the 34th minute. Connor Pain had been elusive down the left flank, and his cross found Josh Risdan, who volleyed cleverly back across the six yard area for Berisha to convert.

New Phoenix striker David Ball looked handy without getting much service. He came close early in the first half, with a delightful first touch, but flicked the finish wide of the near post, while Liberato Cacace also tested Western United goalkeeper Filip Kurto with a well-hit effort from 30 metres.


The Phoenix changed their approach in the second half. They were more direct, and Callum McCowatt in particular find space out wide.

Rufer had the best chance, but headed over from five yards, after McCowatt fizzed a half volleyed cross into the area.

The home side hustled and bustled until the end, as Talay threw on attacking substitutes, without making too many definite opportunities, even within 12 minutes of added time.

Western United 1 (B Berisha 34)
Wellington Phoenix 0
Halftime: 1-0