ALM Match Report: Western United 0-1 Wellington Phoenix

Daniel Penha Western United

Western United were left with broken hearts once again in the Isuzu UTE A-League Men, falling 1-0 to Wellington Phoenix despite a largely dominant display.

The Green and Black created a host of chances, but the Phoenix weren’t without their own opportunities and they took the one that mattered 10 minutes from time.

It was another tough result to take given the performance, but Western United will quickly turn their attention to Round 7 and an away trip to face Central Coast Mariners.

Team News

John Aloisi made just one change to the starting line-up with Noah Botic coming back in to start up front as Nikita Rukavytsya dropped to the bench.

Lachie Wales started for his 150th appearance in the Isuzu UTE A-League as the remainder of the 18-man matchday squad remained unchanged.

First Half

In keeping with the theme of the last few weeks, Western United started sharply and immediately got on the front foot, keeping Wellington penned in their defensive third for the best part of the opening quarter hour.

Lachie Wales forced a smart fingertip save from Alex Paulsen and United had a series of corners in quick succession to set the tone early.

Once Wellington worked themselves into the game after the that, the pace of the game fell and the two sides began to battle for supremacy in midfield.

That saw plenty of strong challenges fly in from both sides with three yellow cards brandished in the half, one of which was given to Nicholas Pennington of the Phoenix and brought about a strong reaction from the Western United bench.

Wellington had a couple of chances themselves with Bozhidar Kraev behind much of their good work.

The Bulgarian skewed a shot wide from the top of the box after Angus Thurgate turned the ball over and later put a delightful cross onto Kosta Barbarouses head, but Tom Heward-Belle was grateful to watch the ball wide of his left-hand post.

United came closest to finding the opener with less than 10 minutes remaining in the half when Botic curled one towards the goal with his left foot, but his effort shaved the outside of the left-hand post and went out for a goal kick.

The United youngster brought out a comfortable save from Paulsen with a flicked header minutes later, as both sides went into the break still searching for an elusive goal.

Second Half

United had a big scare immediately out of half-time when Wellington went forward and Tim Payne thumped a strike onto the post before Heward-Belle made an excellent reaction save from the follow-up.

After that close call, the majority of the second half was largely played between the boxes until Daniel Penha tried to take the game by the scruff of the neck in the final 20 minutes.

The Brazilian was behind everything as United created a flurry of chances in quick succession. Botic fired wide from Rukavytsya’s cut-back before forcing another top save from Paulsen from a header, and the Wellington stopper was sharp again to deny Riku Danzaki and Ben Garuccio.

Wellington’s threat on the break remained and if Oskar Zawada’s blast over the crossbar was a warning sign, it was code red in the 79th minute.

Substitute Ben Old stormed through the centre of the pitch following a Western United corner and, after a one-two pass with Barbarouses, slotted his finish beyond Heward-Belle but an immediate offside flag halted any celebrations.

It appeared offside to the naked eye but VAR deliberated and awarded the goal and United couldn’t pinch a late equaliser, leaving Aloisi to wonder how his side had failed to pick up points after another strong performance.