The A-League Finals got underway on Friday night in Wellington as the Phoenix eliminated Sydney FC in a thrilling 3-2 win.
Both teams started tightly, not looking to concede early and not letting their opponents break through in what was a tight midfield battle for much of the first half.
Sydney FC perhaps had the better chances in a tight first half and had the first real chance in the 18th minute as Brett Emerton sent in a good ball only to see Bruno Cazarine completely miss the ball, allowing Vince Lia to clear.
Sydney FC’s better chances came on free kicks as the Wellington Phoenix looked to stop Sydney FC’s progress anyway they could and with Mark Paston in goal they were able to remain solid.
Wellington Phoenix’s first opportunity came in the 26th minute as Paul Ifill managed to beat the offside trip and earned a corner that was taken by Leo Bertos who sent the ball to Andrew Durante only for his header to be well saved by Ivan Necevski.
Emerton continued to threaten for Sydney FC delivering plenty of good balls from the right while Scott Jamieson was the danger man on set piece delivery.
Both teams looked vulnerable on the counter as the half wore down in to stoppage time but neither side could capitalize as the half ended scoreless.
It didn’t take long after the break for the match to come alive as just two minutes after the break Wellington had the lead.
It was Tim Brown, in what could be his last home game for the Phoenix if Perth Glory win on Sunday, who scored in a frantic opening to the second half.
That goal lead to a resilient effort from the Wellington defense as Sydney FC were forced to come out and chase the game, the Phoenix defenders stood firm to keep them out.
Sydney FC pummeled the Phoenix for much of the half but the hosts came back in to it and in the 79th minute looked to have sealed their passage through as Ben Sigmund made it 2-0 off of Bertos’ corner.
But straight from the restart Sydney FC made things interesting as Joel Chianese took advantage of a napping Wellington Phoenix defense to score and make the final ten minutes a tense affair.
Just three minutes later the scores were level as Chianese sealed his brace, tapping home after Paston was unable to hold on, putting all the momentum in Sydney’s favor.
Just when Sydney FC thought they had it all going for them, disaster struck when Michael Beauchamp gave away a penalty, allowing Paul Ifill to step up and score the winning penalty in the 86th minute.
The win for the Phoenix means that the winner of the Perth Glory vs Melbourne Heart match on Sunday will qualify for an Asian Champions League place due to Wellington’s ineligibility, Wellington will play the winner of that match.
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