The Wellington Phoenix have emerged empty-handed from their first away trip of the A-League season, going down 2-1 to Sydney FC at Leichhardt Oval.

But Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay will be hugely encouraged by his side's performance against the competition's defending champions.

A 69th minute equaliser from Ulises Davila looked to have given the Phoenix a share of the spoils, but an inventive finish from Socceroos fullback Rhyan Grant shortly afterwards was enough to give the Sky Blues all three points.

The silver lining for Talay was the spirit, fight and no small amount of quality shown by his team. Apart from the first twenty minutes, Wellington were the better side across most metrics and were desperately unlucky to come away without anything to show for it.


Sydney FC were on the front foot early in the contest and made their dominance count, opening the scoring after 17 minutes when Wellington failed to clear a right wing corner and Brandon O'Neill found the back of the net with the help of a healthy deflection.

The goal jolted the Phoenix to life and they grew into the game, matching Sydney FC physically and creating more chances than their hosts.

English striker David Ball was the architect of the best two first-half openings, cleverly beating his defender after 21 minutes and firing in a low cross which deflected into the Sydney goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne's grateful hands.

In the final minute of the first half, Jaushua Sotirio met Ball's right-wing cross with a powerful header, only to see it tipped wide by Redmayne.

The game marked Talay's return to the club he played for, for three seasons and where he was assistant coach as Sydney FC were crowned champions last season.

The Phoenix mentor fielded an unchanged side with newly signed English striker Gary Hooper not travelling, having only arrived in the capital on Thursday.

Former Phoenix striker Kosta Barbarouses had a great chance to double Sydney's lead early in the second half, only to be denied by a superb fingertip save by All Whites team-mate Stefan Marinovic.

Immediately, the Phoenix came agonisingly close to equalising, with Davila denied by Redmayne from close range, before Ball fired his follow-up against the inside of the post.


By now, it was all Wellington. Talay was on his feet demanding a spot-kick as Liberato Cacace went to ground in the penalty area, but the appeals were waved away by both the referee and VAR.

When the deserved equaliser came, it was courtesy of a run and cross from Sotirio which Davila collected before gliding past Grant and firing home from ten yards, again via a deflection. But then, Grant met a free-kick at the near post and lifted it cleverly over Marinovic for the game's winning goal.

Things got worse for Wellington late in the game when Cacace was shown a straight red card for a mistimed challenge on Sydney FC substitute Anthony Caceres.

The Phoenix next face Perth Glory in Wellington on Sunday.

Sydney FC 2 (O'Neill 17, Grant 77)
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Davila 69)