Garden of Eden as Wellington nick three points off Wanderers

Wellington Phoenix’s campaign to play Isuzu UTE A-League finals is back on track after a 1-0 victory over Western Sydney Wanderers in Auckland on Sunday.

Ben Waine’s first half tap-in put the injury-hit Phoenix back on the winners’ list after they were routed 4-0 on their return to New Zealand last week.

Ufuk Talay’s Wellington were second best at Eden Park, where Wellington are yet to lose in nine outings but hung tough at New Zealand’s home of rugby.

The 10th-placed Wanderers missed a first-half penalty and rattled the crossbar twice in the second half but fell short of a deserved equaliser as their finals hopes took another major hit.

To the delight of the Nix fans, ex-boss Mark Rudan was given his marching orders close to full-time, the head coach performing a sarcastic bow as he left the tunnel.

The result bumps Wellington up to fourth in the A-League Men table, raising the prospect of home finals.

However, Western Sydney stay 10th and face a fifth consecutive campaign without finals, eight points off the top six with just four matches to play.

Keanu Baccus was in everything early, attempting to chip goalkeeper Oli Sail from well outside the box to start proceedings.

The midfielder then slid through David Ball with a late and ugly tackle, receiving a caution, and headbutted Nicholas Pennington in the nose as he attempted to win a header.

The Phoenix survived the Baccus onslaught and the wet pitch to take the lead on 22 minutes.

Players were slipping on the wet rugby pitch all afternoon, but not Ball.

The Englishman danced through the Wanderers defence, combining with Reno Piscopo before crossing for Waine – 12 years his junior – to tap in.

The assist was a fair reward for Ball, already playing through the pain of a big toe injury before wearing Baccus’ horror challenge on his ankle.

Wellington’s warrior received a fine ovation as he left the game early in the second half, his painkillers wearing off.

The Wanderers also fell foul of the ordinary Auckland surface, missing a penalty after Pennington handled a goal-bound shot.

Steven Ugarkovic was red faced when he slipped as he took the spot-kick, spraying his effort harmlessly wide.

Still, Rudan’s side had the run of the game and enough chances to get back on terms.

Substitute Keijiro Ogawa spooned Adama Traore’s cutback around the hour-mark, and John Koutroumbis fired a deflected effort onto the bar shortly after.

Ramy Najjarine’s header also rattled the woodwork, bouncing down and just clear of Sail’s goal – a sign it wasn’t the Wanderers’ day.