Wellington Phoenix 2
Western Sydney Wanderers 0
The Wellington Phoenix have equalled their record unbeaten run after a 2-0 victory over the Western Sydney Wanderers in Wellington this afternoon.
The win was the ninth consecutive game without defeat for the Phoenix — tying their record-setting run last season — and temporarily lifted them into third on the A-League ladder ahead of fixtures later tonight.
They are giddying heights for Ufuk Talay's side, and a far cry from the scenes early in the rookie coach's tenure, where the Phoenix lost their first four games and had many tipping them as favourites for the wooden spoon.
One key man has emerged as major reason for their turnaround, with electric attacker Ulises Davila continuing his fantastic run of form with a ninth goal; this effort possibly the best of the bunch as he left fly from outside the box and sent a scathing low drive past Wanderers custodian Daniel Lopar.
It was an early strike — giving the Phoenix the lead in the 15th minute — but it was what they deserved after having already created two excellent chances, as Callum McCowatt volleyed wide while Davila hit the post.
Western Sydney also made no credible case that they deserved any better, with a few measly long-range shots the total of their attacking efforts in the first 60 minutes, failing to seriously threaten Stefan Marinovic between the Phoenix sticks.
When the Wanderers did make some changes, they started to produce more of a threat, while the Phoenix did lose their attacking verve slightly, potentially a result of being without fellow star attacking linchpin David Ball. However, replacement striker Gary Hooper did a solid job up front, and there were never any outlandish defensive lapses as they looked to shut up shop at the back.
A few half-chances for the visitors created a nervy moment or two for the season-high home crowd of 9,166, but Liberato Cacace secured the victory in the 88th minute with just their second shot on target, with the left back cutting in after a powerful surge from his wing and scuffing a deflected shot past a sprawling Lopar.
Despite another three points being accumulated and a weekend spot in the top four secured, it was by no means a perfect performance. Talay would have surely preferred a more polished offensive display, and the Wanderers have been strugglers all year, now having lost seven of their last nine matches.
However, it was another match that the Phoenix never looked like losing, and if they can repeat that dose when they visit the Brisbane Roar next Saturday, they'll have a new record to savour.
Phoenix 2 (Davila, Cacace)