Mark this down as one of the most important results for the Phoenix this season.

They have beaten second placed Melbourne City 1-0, with David Ball's well taken goal proving the difference.

It's a win that will provide a huge injection of confidence, after the recent spell of games where they couldn't quite find their best.

This was different. They were sharp and incisive on attack, without perhaps the final touch, and gritty and well organised on defence.


It was a perfect scenario, one that made you yearn for more A-League football in Auckland.

A bumper crowd of 15,347, a crisp summer night, and some thrilling action, with both teams throwing caution to the wind in the second half to provide end-to-end entertainment.

Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay brought in Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi in place of the suspended Tim Payne at right back, while Matti Steinmann was restored to central midfield, after being a late scratching from the Perth match last week due to illness.

Gary Hooper was restored to the starting lineup, meaning Mexican Ulises Davila shifted from a traditional No 10 role to a position wide on the right.

Like they did in their last outing at Eden Park in December, the Phoenix made a nervy start. Three times in the first five minutes they gave possession away near their penalty area, as Melbourne City utilised a clinical high press. The Phoenix were trying to play out – as Talay always encourages – but pushed the envelope, and goal keeper Stefan Marinovic narrowly averted disaster when an early goal kick went straight to City striker Jamie Maclaren.

But gradually the Phoenix built their way into the game, finding space on both flanks, if not deep penetration. Melbourne are a tall, physical team and made their presence felt, though Ball went close, his effort cleared off the line by after a delightful Davila through ball.

The Phoenix looked to have gone ahead in the 27th minute, when Steinmann steered home a Reno Piscopo free kick, after the ball fell into his path via a deflection. The goal was given, before a familiar VAR delay, which eventually concluded that the German was marginally offside when the set piece was taken.

Melbourne were content to soak up pressure and spring on the counter, as the Phoenix enjoyed 65 per cent possession in the first spell. But they found it hard to find space and time between and behind a well organised City defence, with two shots a low output given the balance of play.


Marinovic invited trouble early in the second half, with his scrambled clearance delivered to the feet of Adrian Retamar, but the midfielder couldn't hit the target from distance.

Marinovic was forced into two more saves soon afterwards, as the Wellington team kept coughing up possession in dangerous areas, while the Victorian team seemed to flick the switch.

But after soaking up substantial pressure, including four successive corners, the Phoenix hit with a lightning strike. Cameron Devlin released Hooper down the right, and his pinpoint cross was met with an unerring finish from Ball. It was just reward for the tireless Ball, who was compared to former Liverpool and Newcastle whippet Craig Bellamy by captain Steven Taylor on Friday, for the way he constantly gets at defenders.

Marinovic was then forced into an acrobatic save from a Retamar free kick, and the rebound was blazed over the bar.

The Phoenix sat deeper and deeper in the closing stages, as City pushed forward, without creating too many gilt-edged chances in a tense final period.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (D Ball 58)
Melbourne City 0
Halftime: 0-0