Before their clash with English Premier League outfit West Ham United, Ernie Merrick told his Wellington Phoenix players not to expect miracles. In the end they didn’t need one.
The A-League team upstaged their more fancied opponents 2-1 in Auckland on Wednesday night, with first half goals to skipper Andrew Durante and new signing Alejandro Gorrin handing the Kiwi club a memorable victory.
Durante described it as a win for the entire country.
"First and foremost, beating a Premier League side is a huge achievement for this club," Durante told stuff.co.nz
"It's great, it was a great feeling. The team are very excited. It was a big occasion for us and a big occasion for New Zealand. We're just glad that we contributed to a pretty good game.
"Credit to West Ham, they put us under the pump, especially toward the end of the game. Ernie spoke to us all week about just enjoying ourselves, not going into our shell and letting the occasion overawe us."
Phoenix raced out of the blocks to pile on two goals inside 30 minutes. A free kick by Gorrin was headed in by Durante to give Phoenix the lead, before Gorrin capped off a solo run by slotting home past Jussi Jaaskelainen.
The Hammers pulled one back on 71 minutes courtesy of new Argentine signing Mauro Zarate.
Post-match Merrick was keen to keep a lid on the euphoria.
"Glen Moss pulled off a couple of great saves, it could have gone the other way but there are a lot of good signs,” the coach told stuff.co.nz
" I won't get carried away with it. West Ham were a wee bit unlucky today.
"It was crucial for us to put on a good performance, to win the ball and keep it. Our real strength was a rock-solid backline who were well protected by a bank of midfielders.
"For the boys to perform like that, it was outstanding."
Next up for the Nix is Saturday’s double-header in Wellington when Merrick’s men take on Newcastle United - who pummelled Sydney FC 4-0 on Tuesday – while the Sky Blues face West Ham who will be looking to atone for their loss.
"We want to play well there,” Merrick said of the weekend clash. “My concern is getting them to recover for the next one."comments