A combination of poor finishing for the Wanderers and inept officiating has helped Wellington Phoenix to a 2-1 win over Western Sydney in Auckland tonight. Jaushua Sotirio & Ulises Davila scored either side of a Nicolai Muller equaliser, with the headlines dominated yet again over a contentious VAR decision.
The Wanderers started brightly, dominating the first 10 minutes. Kwame Yeboah unleashed a low drive that glanced past the far post, and Mitch Duke's leadup play allowed Nicolai Muller a tight chance that was agonisingly wide. In the 19th minute Muller cut inside, beat a Nix defender with a body swerve then fired a curling shot that was heading for the side netting until Wellington keeper Stefan Marinovic's fingertip save turned it around the post.
After half an hour the Wanderers interchanged neat passes between Pirmin Schwegler & Yeboah, allowing the midfield to win a corner that Matt Jurman banged a header requiring a double handed save from the keeper. Wellington had their first major attack of the half in the 44th minute, breaking in a counter-attack down the left flank through Jaushua Sotirio, the resulting shot from Steinmann being blocked by McGowan. The first half was a familiar tale of the Wanderers having the majority of possession and chances but failing to unlock the defence with the final ball.
Two minutes into the second half Wellington capitalised on a long ball and flick on that put Sotirio clean through on goal and he lofted the ball over the head of Daniel Lopar to open the scoring.
After another 20 minutes of toil the Wanderers finally had their deserved equaliser. Daniel Georgievski got on his bike with a 25 yard run that he ended with a neat through-ball for the run of Muller. With a yard of space free he found a sidefooted finish that evaded the sliding cover defence and Marinovic to nestle into the bottom corner for 1-1.
Midway through the second half Mitch Duke was rocked in a jumping contest by Tim Payne, the Wellington midfielder bring down his elbows and giving Duke a bloody eye socket. The Wanderers Captain continued on stoically with an emergency bandage wrap covering up the wound.
With 10 minutes to go Daniel Lopar continued his sterling form, Callum McCowatt flicked the ball at the near post at close range, Lopar covered his near-post well with a magnificent diving reaction save on the right hand to keep the scores level.
For yet another week, the VAR intervened to give the Wanderers opponents a massive advantage. Wellington won a penalty after the ball was smashed into Schwegler's arm from a meter away, while his arms were down by his side. Despite being at point blank range, the referee waved it away, then ambled over to watch a dozen slow-mo replays and award a penalty that goes against the rules as written. It was easily converted. The Wanderers pushed for another equaliser but couldn't get it done. Wellington deserved at best a solitary point, but instead took all three points with the early Christmas gift from Daniel Elder. With rumours circulating about the potential exit of coach Markus Babbel, it remains to be seen if he will be in charge for their next match. If he was to be punted by chairman Paul Lederer, the way he & his side have been treated by our disgracefully poor officials will be a huge reason why.
The Wanderers face Perth Glory next weekend on Saturday December 14th, in Perth with kick-off at 9:45PM Sydney time.