Over the years, the A-League has been blessed with some weird and wonderful overseas managers. Who can forget the wacky dress sense of František…
Jaushua Sotirio has overcome a first-half blooper reel to score a brace and earn Wellington Phoenix a 3-1 win over Macarthur FC.
The maligned forward netted twice in seven minutes as the New Zealanders secured a win on the country’s national day, lifting them from bottom of the A-League Men’s table to seventh.
The Nix led through Reno Piscopo’s 12th minute penalty but were pegged back when former captain Ulises Davila struck an equaliser for Macarthur in the 58th minute – his first goal since a contentious off-season move to Campbelltown.
Macarthur had momentum as the Johnny Warren Medal winner departed the stage shortly after, only for Sotirio to steal the limelight.
The 26-year-old used his ferocious pace to score in the 71st and 78th minutes, securing Wellington’s first back-to-back wins of the campaign.
“I had two chances in the first half and definitely should have scored … but ended up getting those two goals in the second half,” Sotirio said.
Piscopo’s opener came after wideman Craig Noone clumsily ran into Sam Sutton in the corner of the box for a clear penalty.
Sotirio’s late-game intervention was all the more surprising given his lacklustre first half, which began when he strayed offside to miss out on a simple tap-in from a Filip Kurto save.
He spooned high and wide when clear free on goal, and made mincemeat of silver service from Sam Sutton, heading a curling cross over from five metres out.
Still, Wellington went to the break ahead at Campbelltown Sports Stadium courtesy of Piscopo’s spot kick – earned when Noone clumsily bundled over Sutton in the corner of the box.
Macarthur then warmed into the contest and finished the half stronger, goalkeeper Oliver Sail making a double-save from Davila and Aleksandar Susnjar to keep the Nix ahead.
Sotirio fired a warning shot of what was to come – volleying onto the post – before Macarthur equalised.
Teenage centre back Finn Surman, on his full debut, was robbed in possession, allowing Daniel De Silva to race clear and cut back for Davila, who struck firmly past Sail.
Then came the Sotirio show.
For his first, the former Wanderer stole possession in his own half and raced free, restoring the Nix lead despite Kurto getting a glove to his effort.
Shortly after, he cashed in by controlling a Sutton long ball and curling home into the bottom corner of the net.
Coach Ufuk Talay said his forward was downcast figure at the break.
“You need character in this game. You need thick skin,” he said.
“We keep it positive in the change room. We kept going again, and he rewards himself in the second half.”
The result leaves Macarthur – who returned to action on Tuesday after five weeks out due to COVID-19 delays – in sixth place.
“We were off the pace to be honest. Just gave the ball away in areas we shouldn’t have … we defended poorly,” coach Ante Milicic said.
“We knew it would be difficult coming off such a long break and backing up.”