Wellington kicked 2018 off with a win as two assists from new signing Nathan Burns saw the Phoenix come from behind against a 10-man Melbourne Victory.
Up against a reduced side for 80 minutes of the match, the Phoenix finally managed to record their second win of the season on a soggy Westpac pitch.
Despite being up on shots, corners and possession, Wellington could not find the target in the first half. They conceded a goal instead, and looked shaky at the back. Darije Kalezic made the choice to substitute defender Marco Rossi in the 20th minute for returnee striker Nathan Burns and the choice seemed to confuse his players, as they lost their shape somewhat with a move to 4-4-2.
The second-half was all about Phoenix attacks and new signings though. Matija Ljujić, on for Michael McGlinchey, looked promising and Burns was rising from the ashes. The home side’s pressure finally told when an uncharacteristic error by Lawrence Thomas saw him spill Burns’ shot through his legs and Krishna was there gambling to fire home.
More good work from Burns down the right-flank again saw his low cross turned in for an own goal, though Andrija Kaluderovic claimed his pressure was the key factor.
Finally the Phoenix had another triumph, snapping Melbourne’s winning streak in the process.
VAR steals the show yet again
Another red card dished out early, another questionable offside call with no allowance for VAR. The system continues to court controversy, whether it is used or is not. In this game it was overused and Victory defender Rhys Williams had his yellow card upgraded to a red. Then it was underused when the linesman incorrectly flagged Krishna offside. It seems the system’s sole objective is to make the game more dramatic, with crowds chanting for its use and managers queuing up to criticise. It has succeeded in that respect.
Barbarouses haunts former club
The Kiwi’s near-post finish late in the first half was enough to send his hometown crowd into boos for the rest of the half. The little winger did well to beat a desperate Tom Doyle and embarrass goalkeeper Lewis Italiano with a powerful finish the custodian should have covered. Despite playing in the side down to 10-men, he had a point to prove to his former employers, and looked dangerous all night. Judging the teams on tonight’s performance and the seasons they have had so far, Barbarouses will feel he made the right choice to return to Melbourne.
A trip to forget for the Victory
Muscat and his men were lost in the rain in Wellington. Their cause was always tough after the VAR decision and their frustration was evident as the calls mounted up against them. The officials and the red card were both big factors in this defeat, and there will be plenty of talk about from this game if the Victory fail to claim a playoff spot.