Wellington Phoenix have survived two late penalties, defeating the Sky Blues 1-0 at Allianz Stadium on Saturday evening.
Adam Le Fondre was denied by Oli Sail from the first spot-kick, before sending his second into the stands.
After finishing the game with just nine men, Phoenix rise into the top six on the live ladder with their third win of the campaign.
Sydney have now lost four out of six games at their shiny new ground and it is six defeats from 11 games overall for Steve Corica’s side.
Back in front of their home fans and looking for their second straight win, the Sky Blues started the brighter of the two sides. Max Burgess, once again deputising for the suspended Joe Lolley, was making inroads on the right early on.
Patrick Yazbek was forced off after suffering a concussion, with Adrian Segecic coming on, prompting Burgess to drop back to central midfield.
The home side’s good start was all for nothing when Oskar Zawada beat Andrew Redmayne to a classy Clayton Lewis through-ball and managed to find a composed finish to give Wellington the lead within the first 10 minutes.
The Sky Blues almost found the equaliser as Robert Mak beat his defender and sent a tantalising driven cross across goal but none of his teammates were there to finish it off.
Sitting on their 1-0 advantage, Ufuk Talay’s side seemed content to allow Sydney the lion’s share of possession but the Sky Blues struggled to penetrate the Wellington defence.
Bozhidar Kraev, Wellington’s best so far this season, then found himself one-on-one with Redmayne. Kraev couldn’t get his shot off the way he would’ve wanted as the Socceroo made a relatively simple stop down to his right, and after a scramble in the penalty area Sydney survived.
As the first half ticked down the home side, despite all their possession, still looked a bit disjointed in attack and weren’t really threatening to get back into the game. Mak’s individuals efforts were the closest Sydney came to a goal in the first 45 minutes.
Neither manager went to his bench as the second half got underway. Looking for a way back into the contest, it seemed it wouldn’t be long before Corica sought a spark from Patrick Wood or perhaps Jaiden Kucharski.
Sydney thought they were level through Rhyan Grant but Shaun Evan chalked it off as the linesman’s flag was raised for offside.
Wellington went down to 10 men in the 71st minute when Kraev was given his marching orders by Evans for a second bookable offence.
Corica eventually beckoned Wood from the bench, the 20-year-old replacing Adrian Segecic.
The visitors were reduced to nine after Nicholas Pennington was shown the red card for violent conduct.
With eight minutes of injury time shown on the fourth official’s board, Wellington were holding on for dear life.
There was to be late drama, with Sydney awarded a penalty after a Tim Payne handball. Le Fondre stepped up to the spot but was denied by Sail. On the rebound, however, Callan Elliot handled a goal-bound strike, giving the Sky Blues another chance.
Le Fondre stepped up once more but this time sent his penalty high above the crossbar, condemning Sydney to their fourth home loss of the season.
Sydney FC 0
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Zawada 10′)
Rodwell makes it through 90 minutes for just the second time
Arguably Corica’s most important off-season recruit, it was looking like Rodwell was going to be a huge bust when he wasn’t able to take the field for the opening stage of the season. Prior to last week’s 2-0 win over Newcastle, Rodwell had only managed 45 minutes of action before being taken off at half-time against Melbourne City.
However, the Englishman has now backed up a classy showing at McDonald Jones Stadium with a solid performance today, and importantly, made it through the 90 minutes unscathed. Perhaps he could’ve track Zawada’s run better but there’s blame to go around between Redmayne and James Donachie too.
If Sydney are to get their campaign back on track and push for a top-six finish, Rodwell will be a vital cog. And with club captain Alex Wilkinson due back before finals time, Corica’s backline will look a whole lot stronger. Whether or not they’re still in the picture by that time remains to be seen.
Can Talay’s imports fire Phoenix into the finals?
We know that recruitment – especially bringing in foreigners – is far from an exact science in the A-League, but Talay has managed to find two diamonds in Kraev and Zawada – the two imports now have nine goals between them after 11 rounds.
Kraev unfortunately will miss the visit to Brisbane next week after receiving a red card today.
It’s probably fair to say that Wellington have been performing below expectations thus far. Can their imports get them back into the finals places?
Sydney slump to fourth home defeat
There’s no doubt that the newly rebuilt Allianz Stadium is a fantastic venue for all stakeholders. But unfortunately for Sydney FC they’ve certainly not been able to make their new digs into a fortress.
From six matches at home this season, the Sky Blues have only managed a single win and one draw, to go along with four losses. Finals teams don’t lose two-thirds of their home games, let alone championship teams, so Corica’s side need to start performing at Allianz to have any chance of making the top six.
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