Five key moments that cost the Phoenix their first ever trophy

Opinion – The Wellington Phoenix’s existence-long wait for silverware goes on.

The A-League’s only Kiwi outfit needed Central Coast Mariners to lose their delayed final game of the season against Adelaide United to claim the Premiers Plate this week. However, the Mariners weathered an early storm in suitably tumultuous weather conditions to win 2-0 on Wednesday night and claim the crown as regular season table-toppers.

It seems preposterous to take a negative look at the Phoenix’s season so far, considering the new heights they have reached under Giancarlo Italiano this campaign. But with the margins so fine – the Plate was even present at Sky Stadium for the Phoenix’s final game just in case results went their way. It is hard not to consider some pivotal moments from the season so far and wonder: what could have been?

Here are five moments which cost the ‘Nix their first ever piece of silverware:

9 December – Phoenix’s Polish Prince pulls up lame

Phoenix player Oskar Zawada celebrates a goal.

This was truly a miserable night for the ‘Nix. If a 3-0 loss to an unfancied Newcastle Jets side wasn’t bad enough, watching star striker Oskar Zawada hobble off after an hour compounded that sinking feeling.

The Polish frontman had already scored four goals in six games before his round seven game ended early. The injury proved to be in the niggle category, leaving Zawada in and out of action for the next 18 matches.

While Kosta Barbarouses certainly stepped into the void in Zawada’s absence, having the pair of them fit and firing would have undoubtedly helped the Phoenix add to their modest joint-ninth ranked tally of 42 goals and possibly got them over the edge.

29 December – Mak attack

Alex Paulsen makes a save for the Wellington Phoenix against Melbourne City FC.

One misplaced pass was all it took. Rookie goalkeeper Alex Paulsen has been revelatory this season, but it was his misguided delivery which led to Robert Mak edging Sydney ahead with just four minutes left at the Allianz Stadium.

Fabio Gomes put the gloss on a 3-1 win for Ufuk Talay over his former side, one which has ended up proving more costly than it seemed at the turn of the year.

2 February – Brown and out

Ben Old of the Phoenix

Inexperience at the punch proved costly. The Phoenix’s young players have been superb this season, but a couple of avoidable errors cost them three points at Suncorp.

Lukas Kelly-Heald’s clearing header failed to find touch and Ben Old was outmuscled trying to shepherd the ball away and the result was Corey Brown nodding home a late equaliser in a game the Phoenix will feel they should have won.

6 April – Doka deals deathly blow

Mikael Doka of the Mariners (left) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal in stoppage time during the A-League Men Round 23 match between the Central Coast Mariners and Wellington Phoenix at Industree Group Stadium in Gosford.

This was perhaps the most pivotal of all the moments, considering who their opponents were.

Billed as a winner-takes-all battle for the Premier Plate it proved to be true as Mikael Doka’s last-gasp curler came amid a five-game winning streak for the Mariners to claim top spot.

A draw in this game, coupled with a change in any of the other examples listed, would have potentially been enough to see the Phoenix lifting the trophy.

19 April – Phoenix pay the penalty

Alex Rufer of the Phoenix (right) reacts following their draw in the A-League Men Round 25 match between the Newcastle Jets and the Wellington Phoenix.

Any lingering hopes of clawing back the Mariners drifted away alongside Alex Rufer’s effort from 12 yards.

The captain had never missed a penalty in his professional career but his last-minute effort against the Jets clipped the post as it, and the Phoenix’s title chances, went wide of the mark.

Of course, all of this requires a massive asterisk. These are five key moments that led to the Phoenix missing out on silverware … for now.

If the A-League followed the more conventional worldwide model for a domestic football league season their chance would be gone, better luck next year lads. However, the Phoenix enter the playoff series at the semi-final stage and are technically just three games away from crowning a stellar season with silverware. Hopefully the key moments can go their way in the weeks to come.

According to the news on Radio New Zealand

Related News

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button