A late strike from substitute Jamie MacLaren gave Perth Glory a 2-1 win and a flying start to the new Hyundai A-League season.
The Glory came out firing and had the better of the first quarter-hour, before the Phoenix gained parity and had two excellent chances to take the lead.
Both Glory goals came as a result of defensive errors from the Phoenix, with new centre-forward Andy Keogh giving Glory a 1-0 lead at the break.
The equaliser arrived via Michael McGlinchey after a period of Phoenix dominance, but as the home side pushed for a winning goal they were hit with MacLaren’s sucker-punch which gave Glory just their second-ever win on New Zealand soil.
Andy Keogh (32 minutes)
Thomas Doyle’s muffed clearance fell to Mitch Nichols, whose precise cross from the right was deftly nodded beyond Glen Moss by the Irish international striker.
1-1 (73 minutes)
A wonderfully constructed goal was started by Dutchman Roly Bonevacia who played a beautifully weighted pass into the path of Nathan Burns raiding down the right wing. His squared ball across the six-yard box was neatly tucked away by Michael McGlinchey.
Jamie MacLaren (86 minutes)
Vinnie Lia’s square pass was mis-controlled by Ben Sigmund, allowing Youssouf Hersi to release MacLaren who lashed an unerring shot into the roof of the net.
With the scores locked at 0-0, and after a period of Phoenix dominance, Nathan Burns was set free by Michael McGlinchey and found himself one-on-one with Perth goalkeeper Danny Vukovic. Burns elected to shoot instead of rounding the Perth custodian and saw his side-footed effort well saved. Instead of being 1-0 up, the Phoenix were 1-0 down shortly afterwards.
Opta Data key stats
The stats tell a story of an even clash, with territory and possession evenly shared. The Phoenix managed five shots on target to Perth’s four and incredibly, both sides played almost exactly the same number of passes (Phoenix 411, Glory 409).
Mitch Nichols showed he hasn’t lost his eye for goal during his time away from the A-League. He was twice denied by Glen Moss with powerful shots from outside the penalty area.
Two defensive errors, two goals. While coach Ernie Merrick was loathe to criticise individuals after the game, the fact remains that both Glory goals came from the Phoenix coughing up possession in their defensive third.
The Final Word
Perth Glory will be delighted with their start to the season, having never won away from home on opening day. The central defensive pairing of Dino Djulbic and Michael Thwaite solidly repelled most Phoenix attacks and further forward Mitch Nichols and Nebojsa Marinkovic will prove to be extremely handy acquisitions.
For the Phoenix, pre-season promise came to nothing and their familiar difficulties with ruthlessness in front of goal and taking advantage of their periods of dominance were evident again.
Wellington Phoenix: Moss, Muscat, Sigmund, Durante, Doyle (Fenton 61), Riera, Bonevacia (Krishna 90), Rodriguez (Lia 80), McGlinchey, Burns, Brockie
Perth Glory: Vukovic, Risdon, Djulbic, Thwaite, Jamieson, Griffiths, Garcia (MacLaren 80), Nichols, Marinkovic, Hersi, Keogh
Scorers: Keogh (32), McGlinchey (73), MacLaren (86)
Red cards: n/a
Yellow cards: Nichols 12, Griffiths 26, Bonevacia 58, Durante 60
Conditions: Fine, 16 degrees