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Burns nets twice as Phoenix leapfrog Sydney

As time expired, the cameras caught Ernie Merrick with what looked unmistakeably like a smile. After the final whistle Andrew Durante turned to the travelling support, arms aloft. It was an impressive Phoenix victory on Sunday over Sydney FC which saw Wellington move above the Sky Blues and into fourth spot on the ladder.

It’s not typically the happiest of venues for the New Zealanders – the scene of past eliminations, thrashings and controversies – but they’ll depart New South Wales with a valuable three points in the bag this time around.

Not quite as happy a Christmas for Graham Arnold, though, who after starting the season so brightly, has seen his side pick up just one point from nine in the past three weeks. Their unbeaten start to the season a distant memory, Sydney have another tough ask on Boxing Day against Adelaide United.

Both coaches were forced into one change apiece; Tom Doyle replaced the suspended Manny Muscat for Wellington, while Rhyan Grant entered Arnold’s matchday squad to replace Alex Brosque, who was a late withdrawal due to a groin injury.

Despite the absence of Brosque, Sydney’s attacking trio of Mark Janko, Bernie Ibini and former Phoenix striker Shane Smeltz still posed an almighty threat to Wellington’s back four, led by Durante but flanked by the inexperienced duo of Louis Fenton and Tom Doyle.

Few would dispute that the home side shaded a dull opening half – as Ibini continually found space in behind on the left wing but was let down by the final touch. First it was Janko, then Smeltz, who fired wide after Ibini – aided admirably by youngster Alex Gersbach – had crossed into the area.

Match Details Full match details »

Date/Time Sun Dec 21, 2014, 5:00 PMStadium Allianz StadiumAttendance 14,672Referee Shaun Evans

Sydney

None

Wellington

Goal73′ N.BurnsGoal81′ N.Burns

Conversely, Wellington were finding it tough to get in behind and were restricted to through balls to the likes of Nathan Burns and Roy Krishna. Sydney’s offside trap alleviated the threat posed by eight-goal Burns and Roy Krishna, who had scored in four games running, but only just.

After 25 minutes the Fijian was adjudged to have mistimed his run when played through on goal. Replays showed conclusively that Krishna was onside, and would almost certainly have scored, with Burns in support and only Vedran Janjetovic to beat.

But as easily as Wellington could have been in front, they might also have fallen behind after half an hour. In the clearest opening of the first stanza, Ibini and Janko exchanged passes before Glen Moss smothered the Austrian’s effort and could only watch as Smeltz poked the rebound onto the upright.

Janko and Terry Antonis traded half-chances before the break but it seemed as though something special would be required to break through a largely uninspiring contest.

But a much-improved Wellington took to the field in the second half; Roly Bonevacia found himself with more time on the ball, Burns saw possession in the penalty area and Fenton managed to push forward. At one point in the second half, even Durante was Wellington’s most advanced player.

A breakthrough was coming, and the Phoenix had their lead with 15 minutes to play. Burns turned Pedj Bojic inside out before beating Janjetovic at the near post with a fine finish. Burns left Bojic and two Sydney defenders in his wake to score his ninth goal of the season and underline his Asian Cup credentials.

Rather than sitting on their lead, Wellington went all out to add to it. Krishna blazed over when played in by Bonevacia, Burns’ low cross narrowly evaded the Fijian, McGlinchey was inches away from a tap-in and Burns lost the ball under his feet when played into the penalty area.

Sydney were gifting the visitors the ball in advanced positions and coughed up possession fatally with just under ten minutes to play. Fenton twisted away from one would-be tackler before his ball found Burns, who finished smartly to become the fastest player to ten A-League goals in a single season.

Smeltz could have ensured a nervy final five minutes but his effort — after he had kept his feet under the challenge of Ben Sigmund — was saved by a scrambling Moss. The stopper – sporting a black eye following a collision with Ibini – and the Phoenix held on to record a rare away win against the Sky Blues and post just their second clean sheet of the campaign.

Wellington, who are now unbeaten in four, face the well-travelled Western Sydney Wanderers at home on Sunday evening.

 

Ultimate A-League ‘Player of the Year’ Votes
3 Roly Bonevacia (Wellington Phoenix)
2 Nathan Burns (Wellington Phoenix)
1 Bernie Ibini (Sydney FC)
Youth Alex Gersbach (Sydney FC)

About the author

avatarJoe is a sports journalist for Goal Weekly, and a writer for Ultimate A-League.

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