17/04/2024

The Wellington Phoenix in a huddle as they were preparing to play the Western Sydney Wanderers. Photo Credit: Joshua Davis

In a 2-1 contest at Campbelltown Stadium, Wellington would maintain their gap at the top of the table with a victory over Macarthur on Sunday night.

After a slow start to the first half, which was understandable given the lengthy delay to kick-off due to inclement weather in the area, Wellington would strike first.

Lukas Kelly-Heald was tripped up in the box by the trailing leg of Tomislav Uskok, with Shaun Evans pointing to the spot and Kosta Barbarouses would put the ball into the net to give the visitors a 1-0 lead.

Both sides would have some great opportunities in the opening 20 minutes of the second half, but neither could capitalise.

Barbarouses would give the visitors a 2-0 lead after a scrappy goal in the 73rd minute, before Bernardo would score his first goal for Macarthur to spark some life into the hosts.

With seven minutes of added time in the second half, Macarthur chased an equaliser, creating multiple chances to no avail, which would see Mile Sterjovski’s side undefeated streak end at eight games.

Wellington coach Giancarlo Italiano now has two wins in his two trips to Campbelltown Stadium.

His secret?

“The secret is the team. We’ve had so many different things thrown at us this week and it was very easy for the boys to lose focus and come here and go ‘look, alright, we’re playing third place, we can get what we can get out of the time’,” Italiano said.

“The fact that we lost Rufer five minutes before the game, and I was just so buoyed by the fact that it was like, ok, no problem. The boys took it in stride. Fin Conchie came into the team and they just applied themselves for 90 minutes.”

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Despite the result, Sterjovski said that he was “super proud” of his side.

“They fought to the end and we… I thought there was only one team trying to play so, super proud of the effort and disappointed with the loss,” he said.

For Macarthur, the side now turns attention to the Central Coast Mariners in the AFC Cup ASEAN Zonal Final on Thursday night and perhaps a new undefeated streak.

Sterjovski said his side would be looking to bounce back against the Mariners.

“We’ll wait to see how the boys recover but like I said before, super proud of the players. We’ve done really well.

“We’re looking to bounce back now against the Mariners, which won’t be an easy game but I can guarantee that the boys will be up for this match.”

The victory to Wellington came after a one hour delay to the original 5pm kick-off time due to lightning in the area, with play getting underway at 6:01pm.

The delay came on the anniversary of a lengthy delay between Macarthur and the Newcastle Jets on February 18, 2023.

Kick-off that day was originally scheduled to be 5pm, before it was delayed to 6pm because of heat concerns.

That game was initially delayed due to lightning after Newcastle had taken a 1-0 lead, before resuming momentarily and then being further delayed due to lightning with the game eventually finishing around 10pm with Newcastle finishing 1-0 victors.

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