A-League: Wellington Phoenix put five past Perth Glory

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Darije Kalezic has waited a long time for a performance like that.

“The first win is always important. It doesn’t matter the way they come,” the Wellington Phoenix coach said, with a chuckle.

Fair to say the gaffer was glad to rid himself of the five-game winless streak that lingered in the build-up to Sunday’s game at Westpac Stadium, especially in that manner as the Phoenix crushed Perth Glory 5-2.

The win, Wellington’s first of the 2017-18 Hyundai A-League season, was sparked by an aggressive attacking performance, led by stand-in captain Roy Krishna, who assisted on three goals, and Andrija Kaludjerovic, who scored a late double.
“Roy was amazing. He was really important. He played as a captain. He was in the attacking. He was in the defending. He kept the ball for us. He ran in the space behind the opponents. He was always dangerous,” Kalezic said.
But, despite the scoreline heavily favouring the Phoenix, the game was not without its nervy moments, after another calamitous back pass gifted the Glory the opening goal of the game.

What should have been a routine pass between defender Marco Rossi and goalkeeper Keegan Smith was instead an awkward, looping effort that put the 18-year-old under enormous pressure. With Andy Keogh bearing down on him, Smith slipped on the turf and handled the ball in the box.

An indirect freekick was awarded by referee Kurt Ams, with Diego Castro laying the ball off for Xavi Torres to convert his first A-League goal.

The lead didn’t last long though, attacking midfielder Dario Vidosic using his weapon of choice – his head – to nod a precise cross from Krishna in for his third goal of the season.
The Phoenix took the lead in the 33rd minute, Goran Paracki opening his account with a powerful strike across the face of goal. He was set up by Krishna, who did well to win back possession off a wayward lob from Scott Neville, the Fijian international storming towards the box and setting up his up his team-mate to his right.

Shane Lowry levelled the score straight after halftime, heading in a superb cross from Mitch Nichols at the near post, before the Phoenix regained the lead with Gui Finkler finishing off another storming run from the ever-dangerous Krishna down the right wing.

The video assistant referee came in to play for Wellington’s fourth, much to the delight of the crowd as chants of “VAR, VAR, VAR” echoed throughout the stadium. After the game had stopped for more than a minute, Neville was eventually judged to have handled the ball in an aerial challenge with Kaludjerovic.

Kaludjerovic stepped up to convert the penalty and had a second soon after, taking his season tally to five in six games.

Perth coach Kenny Lowe was not happy with the penalty decision, which he said came at a crucial stage of the game as it gave the Phoenix a two-goal advantage. He believed there was little that Neville could have done to avoid making contact with the ball.

“He can’t do anything else. The ball has hit him and the arm hasn’t gone to the ball. He hasn’t stopped a goal. The guy has sliced it, it’s spinning in the air, it’s not going anywhere, it’s not going into the net,” Lowe said.

Making the victory even more impressive was the fact that the Phoenix, wearing their white alternate strip to show solidarity with the All Whites, were without national team players Andrew Durante and Michael McGlinchey, who both took the field in New Zealand’s 0-0 draw with Peru just 24 hours earlier.

Although relieved to get off the mark, the mounting injuries to defensive players continue to cause problems for Kalezic, with Scott Galloway scratched before kickoff as he was not 100 per cent fit to play, while his replacement, Dylan Fox, limped off with a hamstring injury just before halftime.