Phoenix scrape past Sydney FC
PAUL Ifill got it right, summing up the Wellington Phoenix' 1-0 win over Sydney FC by saying "it wasn't very pretty". Ugly might have been closer to the mark.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert was happily in the "better to win ugly than not win at all" camp. His Sydney counterpart Vitezslav Lavicka found nothing to be happy about.
Led by strong games from Brett Emerton, Bruno Cazarine, Joel Chianese and Hirofumi Moriyasu, the home side dominated in all facets except where it counted most - on the scoreboard.
Riding the sea of support from the 10,000-plus fans at the Sydney Football Stadium, the home side quickly swung on to attack, forcing the Phoenix to defend almost, it seemed, from the first whistle to the last.
Creating chances - and they were better than five to one on that statistic than the Phoenix - is one thing, finishing them is another and here the Phoenix presented a solid wall, rode their luck and came out winners.
In captain Andrew Durante, his faithful lieutenant Ben Sigmund and goalkeeper Mark Paston, the Wellington side have, surely, a defensive trio up with the best in the Hyundai A-League.
Bouncing back from successive 2-0 losses to the best teams in the league was always going to be a challenge, especially at a stadium which had been far from a happy hunting ground and confronted by a team chasing a third successive victory for the first time since 2008.
In the end, one goal was enough to earn the visitors their first win in Sydney in four years. In Durante, Sigmund, who must be pushing for a place in the All Whites starting line-up against Jamaica on Wednesday night, and Paston, the home side came up against a brick wall.
In the end, their frustration became apparent and the Phoenix actually created a couple of half chance with the best falling to Ifill.
A rare headed goal from Ifill was enough to seal the victory which will go a long way to cementing a top four, or possibly top three, finish.
The Phoenix are back home on Sunday to play Gold Coast.
In two away games with them this season, the Phoenix have drawn 1-1 and won 1-0.