The Wellington Phoenix celebrated their 200th A-League match in style, chalking up their fourth straight victory and leaping to second on the ladder with a 3-0 win over defending champions Brisbane Roar.
Manny Muscat’s early goal was added to by a Jeremy Brockie brace in the second half, the first from a penalty which the Phoenix striker earned, before he swivelled to volley home his second shortly afterwards and put the result beyond doubt.
Despite numerous forays into enemy territory, the Roar were unable to penetrate and failed to score for just the second time in 22 meetings with the Phoenix, leaving coach Frans Thijssen frustrated afterwards as his team enters the mid-season break outside the top six.
1-0 Manny Muscat (4 minutes)
The Phoenix left-back found himself in an unfamiliar advanced position, but showed good composure to slide the ball under the advancing Jamie Young to give the Phoenix an early lead.
2-0 Jeremy Brockie (51 minutes)
The departing Phoenix striker earned a penalty when Young clattered into him as the two challenged for the ball just inside the penalty area. Desperate for a goal in his final match, Brockie clinically dispatched the spot-kick into the bottom left-hand corner before sprinting off to celebrate in front of a delirious Yellow Fever.
3-0 Jeremy Brockie (67 minutes)
Brockie rolled back the years and conjured an eye-catching second goal, swivelling on the edge of the area and drilling an unstoppable shot past Young. It left Brockie with 23 goals from 58 Phoenix matches, behind only Tim Brown (24) and Paul Ifill (33) on the all-time list of top goalscorers for the club.
Apart from Muscat’s goal, this was an even contest for much of the first 50 minutes, before referee Stephen Lucas awarded the Phoenix a penalty on the advice of his assistant. Roar coach Frans Thijssen was incensed afterwards, as was Young, who felt he had challenged fairly. Brockie’s clinical penalty put the game beyond the Roar’s reach and consigned them to just their third-ever defeat at the hands of the Phoenix.
Opta Data key stats
The Roar had 16 attempts on goal to the Phoenix’s 13, but hit the target just once, leaving Glen Moss relatively untroubled all afternoon. By contrast, three of the Phoenix’s four shots on target resulted in goals.
The Roar also played more passes (475) and with greater accuracy (80 per cent) than the Phoenix, but were unable to make it count in the attacking third.
At 2-0 up, the Phoenix were well in control and strung together an attacking move which had the crowd gasping. At the end of a flowing passage of play involving over a dozen passes, Alex Rodríguez lifted a delightful pass into the path of Roly Bonevacia, whose stinging volley went just wide. It was inches away from being a goal of the season contender.
Falling behind early is never ideal, but to concede after little more than 200 seconds really sets you back. Muscat looked to have pushed the ball too far ahead of him, but hesitancy by the Roar defence allowed him to slot home just his third Phoenix goal in his 155th game for the club.
Back to the drawing board
The break has come at a good time for the defending champions. With a month for key players like Michael Theo and Thomas Broich to recover from their injuries, the Roar may yet have a say in the make-up of the top six. Thijssen will certainly be demanding more heart from his side though, if his post-match comments are any guide.
The Final Word
Football fairytales are often written and seldom delivered, but Brockie took the lead role in this game. After a goal-less nine matches, he had one final chance to sign off with a goal and delivered twice over. To the delight of the home fans who adore him, he earned and scored from the spot, before bashing home a second, both at the end where the Yellow Fever stand. His grin as he departed late in the match probably hid a few tears, as the popular striker completed an emotional bow.
Wellington Phoenix: Moss, Fenton (Boxall), Sigmund, Durante, Muscat, Riera, Lia, Rodriguez, Bonevacia, McGlinchey (Boyd), Brockie (Hicks).
Brisbane Roar: Young, Brown, Bowles, North, Donachie, Brattan, Sarota (Danning), Lustica (Klut), Henrique, Solorzano, Petratos
Scorers: Jeremy Brockie 2 (1 pen), Manny Muscat
Red cards: n/a
Yellow cards: Phoenix: Alex Rodriguez, Jason Hicks Brisbane: Jamie Young, Jade North
Conditions: Fine, 21 degrees