A-League: Wellington Phoenix fall to hard-fought defeat to Western United in elimination final

  • 15/05/2022

Wellington Phoenix have been denied a place in the A-League semi-finals in a tense 1-0 loss to Western United in their elimination final at Melbourne on Saturday.

After falling behind in the 10th minute courtesy of a goal by Aleksandar Prijovic, the Phoenix couldn't find the equaliser they needed - in large part due to the efforts of outstanding United goalkeeper Jamie young.

The veteran ensured none of the multitude of chances created by the Phoenix were converted, highlighted by arguably the save of the season in the 71st minute, when he showed incredible reflexes to parry away a powerful header from substitute James McGarry.

McGarry latched on to a cross from Tim Payne and looked to have put the ball out of Young's reach, only for the Australian to extend full stretch to his right and bat the ball away single-handed.

Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay acknowledged Young's match-winning evening, admitting his team had left it all on AAMI Park to close out a remarkable season, in which the team overcame key injuries and another year based away from home to qualify for their second finals berth in three years.

Western United goalkeeper Jamie Young makes the spectacular save of James McGarry's header.
Western United goalkeeper Jamie Young makes the spectacular save of James McGarry's header. Photo credit: Getty Images

"I think Jamie Young was probably the best player on the park and I think that tells you a bit of a tale of the game," Talay said after the game. "I think we created enough chances to get ourselves back in the game.

"Disappointed at the end that we don't continue but very proud of the group. [They] showed their resilience and perseverance to get to where they got to this season.

"I'm very proud of the group, very proud of the players, very proud of my staff [for] the perseverance and the resilience that the players have shown for us to even get to this point and play finals football.

"On that side of things I can't complain. I'm just disappointed about the result."

Talay made four changes to the XI which started Monday's final regular season match against Melbourne City. Reno Piscopo, David Ball, Gael Sandoval and Clayton Lewis all returned to the starting line-up, with Lewis making his first start in seven weeks.

The Phoenix made a bright start to the match, before United stole the momentum, when Prijovic struck home at the back post from an uncleared cross.

Gary Hooper came close to an immediate equaliser - his header just off target - as the Phoenix dominated possession.

The second half was action-packed, as the Phoenix desperately chased an equaliser. They almost had one in the 62nd minute, when Piscopo's strike hit the crossbar. They squandered a great chance six minutes later, when Ben Old couldn't head an inch-perfect cross from Ball on target.

While their campaign is over, Talay said the Phoenix are already looking forward to next season, when they'll finally be able to return home.

"It's nice to know we'll be playing home and away," Talay said. “It'll be nice to be able to train in Wellington, sleep in our own beds and get ready for a game at home.

"It's nice to know we'll be back and have a bit of normality."