A-League: Wellington Phoenix fall to defending champions Sydney FC in campaign opener


The Wellington Phoenix suffered a 2-1 defeat to Sydney FC in Wollongong on Saturday night, a pair of impressive long-range strikes in either half handing the defending champions victory in the season opener. 

Having equalised through debutant Mirza Murtavovic on the stroke of halftime but fallen behind again 10 minutes into the second spell, the Phoenix poured on the pressure in the final quarter of the contest.

However another equalised wasn't forthcoming, Sydney holding on for what was officially an away win with the Wellingtonians based in Wollongong since November.

"I think it took two really good goals to beat us this afternoon," Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay said after the match.

"Overall, the performance and the way the boys finished off, I'm pretty pleased with that but I'm obviously not pleased with the result.

"I think that's the fourth time we've come close [to beating Sydney] and we've fallen just a little bit short again but that's game is done now and we'll look forward to our next game against Macarthur."

Sydney debutant Calem Nieuwenhof opened the scoring in stunning style, the 19-year-old thumping the ball into the top left corner from well outside the box in the 29th minute.

The Phoenix drew level in first-half added time, Muratovic clipping a Tim Payne cross in off the left-hand post to make it 1-1 at the break.

Just 10 minutes after the resumption, though, Sydney restored their lead as Luke Brattan belted a powerful free-kick over the Wellington wall and beyond the dive of All Whites goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.

It proved the winning strike, with the Phoenix unable to again get back on even terms despite dominating territory and possession in the closing quarter of the contest.

The next match for the Phoenix came against A-League newcomers Macarthur Bulls at Campbelltown Stadium, on the outskirts of southern Sydney, on Saturday.