A-League 2021: Wellington Phoenix snare dramatic extra-time winner against Western United

Wellington Phoenix have come from behind to beat Western United 3-2, courtesy of a scintillating stoppage-time winner.

In the 91st minute, Ben Waine soared to meet a perfectly timed cross from fellow teenager Sam Sutton to head into the back of the net, keeping the Kiwi side's A-League playoffs hopes alive.

Initially, the goal was judged offside, but video review overturned the decision.

The strike rounded out a hard-fought contest, where momentum swung back and forth.

In the 31st minute, United opened the scoring through a penalty to Bershart Berisha.

On the stroke of halftime, the Phoenix equalised with a their own shot from the spot, after former Wellington stalwart Andrew Durante was called for a handball in the penalty area.

Ulises Davila, who had already had three shots on goal, calmly slotted the strike for his second goal of the season, sending the teams into halftime on level terms.

The Phoenix came out of the sheds with much more impetus, piling the pressure on United early.

In the 53rd minute, that pressure paid off. Sutton laid on a pinpoint pass at the top of the box for Davila, whose shot was craftily deflected by Jaushua Sotirio to give the Phoenix their first lead.

But that advantage was short-lived, as Western United’s Iker Guarrotxena scrambled home a header to equalise just three minutes later.

That set the stage for Waine and Sutton's heroics to deliver a statement victory for the Phoenix.

Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay's decision to start 19-year-old Sutton in defence, after only a single minute of A-League experience coming into the game, came as a surprise to many, but the academy player delivered on his promise.

"I thought Sutts - for his first start - did a fantastic job as a left back," Talay says. "He's not a natural left back, but we've worked with him all pre-season to get him used to playing in that position.

"He did a great job and it was also great for Waino to score the winner.

"Sutts has been working well with us since pre-season and I just felt we needed a change there. We gave him an opportunity and I'm pleased for him coming in and doing a good job.

"He gave us something different."

Talay is heartened by the Phoenix's dogged display, hoping it will give his team some timely momentum.

They now sit ninth on the A-League ladder, with just 10 matches before playoffs get underway.

"We've been a little bit up and down this season, a lot of inconsistency due to injury, so hopefully we can maintain our starting XI and build that consistency," he notes.

"This group has been through a lot, with last season due to COVID-19 and where they’re at now, but they’re a good, solid group.

"They want to achieve things and they want success, so motivating these players is quite easy."

The Phoenix now travel to Perth to face the 10th-placed Glory on Sunday.