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Western Sydney Wanderers FC
Western Sydney Wanderers FC
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In a scrappy affair in New Zealand, it was Wellington Phoenix who claimed victory against Western Sydney Wanderers, yet again by two goals to one.
After a limp first 45 minutes, the game exploded to life in the second half.
Jaushua Sotirio opened proceedings just after the break with a lovely lob over Daniel Lopar, a goal entirely against the run of play.
Wanderers had dominated the first half, looking to make amends for their recent poor run of form and found little opposition in the toothless Phoenix.
Nicolai Muller equalised after an excellent run in behind the Phoenix defence, slotting a first time shot past Stefan Marinovic.
The game became turgid for a period after that action and things looked to be heading to a draw until the late controversy arrived.
Ulises Davila’s effort from the edge of the box was blocked by an outstretched hand and – after a VAR check – the referee pointed to the spot.
The Wanderers players remonstrated furiously but to no avail, and Davila scored his second penalty in a matter of weeks to secure all three points.
The win carries Phoenix above their opponents in the A-League table, remarkable given their awful start to the campaign; the fact that the Kiwis now occupy fourth spot in the standings is testament to the A-League’s thrilling unpredictability, an absolute positive for the neutral supporter.
On the opposite side, though, Markus Babbel is a coach with plenty of issues.
After a great start his Wanderers side have tailed off spectacularly, this being a fourth loss in a row.
Their promising start to this tie ultimately counted for nothing and if they don’t gain anything from their trip to Perth Glory next weekend, the German may be in trouble of losing his job.
Phoenix will next travel to Melbourne to face a Victory side only one spot from the bottom of the table. Don’t put it past them making it four wins out of four.
Wellington Phoenix 2
Western Sydney Wanderers 1
The Wellington Phoenix and Western Sydney Wanderers go head to head on Saturday afternoon. Join The Roar for a live blog and scores from 5pm AEDT.
After struggling for so much of the opening ties of this A-League season, Wellington Phoenix have remarkably turned things around in recent weeks.
They secured their first win against Brisbane Roar and followed that up – even more impressively – with a 2-1 victory over the in-form Adelaide United away from home.
They’re back in New Zealand this weekend hoping to make it three wins on the bounce.
If they do see off Western Sydney Wanderers, the three points would incredibly take them above their opponents in the table.
Wanderers started the season strongly but their form has tailed off. Markus Babbel is a manager under pressure with his players underperforming and losing three games in a row.
The match will take place at Auckland’s Eden Park and Ufuk Talay will be hoping for a healthy crowd to get behind the men in yellow.
He should name a settled side with striker Gary Hooper starting from the bench as he tentatively returns from injury, despite his positive cameo appearance last weekend.
Louis Fenton remains sidelined, meaning Tim Payne will continue in the unfamiliar right-back role.
Wellington Phoenix XI (predicted)
GK: Stefan Marinovic
RB: Tim Payne
CB: Steven Taylor
CB: Luke DeVere
LB: Liberato Cacace
CDM: Alex Rufer
CDM: Matti Steinmann
RAM: Jaushua Sotirio
CAM: Ulises Davila
LAM: Reno Piscopo
ST: David Ball
Western Sydney Wanderers XI (predicted)
GK: Daniel Lopar
RB: Daniel Georgievski
CB: Dylan McGowan
CB: Matt Jurman
LB: Daniel Wilmering
CDM: Pirmin Schwegler
CDM: Keanu Baccus
RAM: Bruce Kamau
CAM: Nicolai Muller
LAM: Mitchell Duke
ST: Alexander Meier
If you had told someone that Phoenix would go into this contest as favourites a few weeks ago laughter might have been expected, but this is where we’re at.
The Wanderers would probably prefer a home fixture instead of travelling outside of Australia after losing away to Newcastle Jets last weekend.
The Phoenix will be looking to impress the Auckland crowd and if they get some momentum in the early stages, the Kiwis should see it through.