Four things we learnt against Wellington Phoenix


The Wanderers’ 5-2 loss against Wellington Phoenix may be quite different to what it first appears.

Loss of Spanish trio no factor in result
At face value, such an extraordinary result would suggest that the absences of Alberto, Dimas and Andreu were influential in the ultimate balance of play. And although it’s little consolation in terms of the result, the Wanderers can at least be buoyed by the fact they were not less of a threat without their Spanish duo in the heart of the midfield orchestrating play.

Scott Neville Andreu celebration
The Wanderers amassed a huge 17 chances against Wellington yesterday – more than enough to cement their position of dominance on the night, and the side’s second highest amount of chances created in a single match this season, dwarfed only by 19 against Brisbane on the opening day.
Tony Popovic was eager to rubbish the impact of their loss in the post-match press conference.
“At times we may not have controlled the game as well as we would’ve liked, but we still created numerous opportunities,” said Popovic.
“The chances we created today were as good as any that Andreu and Dimas have made when they’ve been on the field.”
Bridge and Nichols combination continues to flourish
The dynamic duo have put visiting teams to the sword this season and although another two goals from Mark Bridge and Mitch Nichols at Wanderland meant little on the day, both players are well and truly entering career-best goal scoring form.
Bridge continued his excellent strike rate against Wellington with another neat finish and his seventh goal at home in his last eight, bringing his total for the season up to nine. He’s just two strikes away from equalling his season best tally of 11 from 2012/13.
Mitch Nichols’ screamer from distance against the Phoenix was also his ninth of the season, equalling his best ever 2011/12 season total with seven matches to spare.
The pair have also assisted each other five times this season: a lethal partnership and understanding that continues to flourish by the week.
Defeat won’t derail premiership assault, but small details will matter
As Popovic stated after the game, there’s nothing good about losing 5-2 at home. Thankfully, the freakishly un-Wanderers-like manner in which the result unfurled suggests that the result was more of an anomaly than a serious cause for concern.
“This game won’t derail our season”, said Popovic.
“As a unit and as a collective it was our worst 90 in terms of how we defended, and I haven’t been able to say that all year.
“Defensively we had a tough night, not that we got outplayed we just didn’t deal with the big man up front, we didn’t deal well with the second balls and Wellington capitalised.
“The small details are important, today our small details weren’t good enough but we’ll move on very quickly. We’re in a very healthy position.”

With thirty points still up for grabs the title race is still in the Wanderers’ favour. Should the Red & Black earn a result against Sydney in the Derby this Saturday, yesterday’s humbling will likely be all but forgotten.
Powell the hero on a day to remember for Wellington
Before Ernie Merrick’s team ran rampant in the Parramatta sun, they had scored just nine goals away from New Zealand all season. Following a four goal haul by ex-Sydney FC prospect Blake Powell and Michael McGlinchey’s effort from the spot, the Phoenix managed to net a quarter of their tally for the season prior to kick off in ninety minutes.
Wellington’s goal scoring woes have seen them slide from a position as one of the league’s entertainers to this campaign’s greatest underachievers, but in Powell, who took each chance with aplomb, the Nix may have found the man to solve their bluntness in front of goal. Powell became the first player to score a hat-trick against the Wanderers in a remarkable feat that will likely not be replicated for years to come.