Finally, the new season of A-League started for the New Zealanders of Wellington Phoenix. The club that is being forced to play their home games in Wollongong, Australia due the COVID-19 scenario faced Sydney FC in their debut game – their first game of the season was to be in December but it was postponed.
A different Phoenix was fielded by the coach Ufuk Talay: the newcomers Joshua Laws, James McGarry, Clayton Lewis and Mirza Muratovic started the match. The Mexican star Ulises Davila was on the bench alongisde the new signing, the Israeli striker Tomer Hemed.
The A-League current champions Sydney FC had the biggest portion of ball possession in the starting minutes of the clash, but no much goalscoring chances were created. Phoenix was keen to use Jaushua Sotirio in the counter-attack – something that proved not efficient in the entire game.
The youngster Calem Nieuwenhof scored a long-range goal at the 29th minute of play to put Sydney FC upfront, but still in the first half the debutant Mirza Muratovic managed to finish a cross coming from the right to equalise the match.
In the second half Phoenix once again was hit by a long-range finish; this time the midfielder Luke Brattan fired from far away the box a free-kick that went on the top-corner of Stefan Marinovic.
Just after conceding, Talay introduced his two stars from the bench – Hemed and Davila – in place of Lewis and Muratovic. Both players proved to combine well upfront alongside Sotirio and David Ball, Phoenix managed to pressure Sydney and create good chances. In the final minutes a Davila’s shot hit Hemed and went to the back of the net, but the former Israeli international was on offside position and the goal was ruled out.
The New Zealand’s side was not able to find an equaliser and started the 20/21 season of the A-League with a 2-1 defeat, but it is true there are positive signs shown specially in the second part of the game after the introduction of Hemed and Davila.
The Nix next challenge will be against the debutants in the league Macarthur, next Saturday at Campbelltown Stadium.