Football: Wellington Phoenix remain unbeaten to start A-League season with comeback win over Brisbane Roar

A hattrick of goals from Polish striker Oskar Zawada has helped Wellington Phoenix continue their unbeaten start to the 2023/24 A-League season, as they rallied from an early goal down to defeat Brisbane Roar 5-2 at Sky Stadium.

The home side found themselves behind within 32 seconds of kickoff, when the Roar broke from their own half and Florin Berenguer slotted a rightfoot shot past goalkeeper Alex Paulsen and inside the the left post.

Wellington needed slightly longer to respond, but eventually drew level, when Tim Payne rifled a left foot into the net from inside the penalty area.

Oskar Zawada celebrates a goal against Brisbane.
Oskar Zawada celebrates a goal against Brisbane. Photo credit: Photosport

Before halftime, Zawada had the first of his three goals, when defender Tom Aldred misdirected a long pass back to his keeper, allowing the Pole to swoop and score.

Brisbane striker Nikola Mileusnic equalised after the break, when the Phoenix defence could not clear a dangerous bouncing ball from the goalmouth, but Bulgarian Boazhidar Kraev restored the lead for good, when he ran onto a long through ball and nudged inside the far post.

Zawada had his second, when Lukas Kelly-Heald's cross eluded defenders and his teammate nodded home, and closed his account, when Nicholas Pennington took advantage of some lacklustre communication at the back to find his striker open on the far post.

After an opening draw and victory over Perth Glory last week, the Phoenix sit - temporarily at least - atop the league table and new coach Giancarlo Italiano is feeling bullish about his team's best-ever start to a season.

"Stop the race, that's what I say," he said. "I'm very pleased with the overall performance, if you put into context conceding a goal in the first minute.

"The fact that the boys rallied straight after that, they settled down, they were really good for large parts and a lot of the stuff we worked on during the week came to fruition.

"I'm happy that we scored five goals. I'm probably more happy with the fact that we came back from a goal deficit after the first minute.

"The boys really rallied together and showed a lot of character. I did say the focus would be on attacking football and there might be some games where it doesn't work, but we're going to try and play.

"Every week, you’ve seen us we’re getting more and more confident with the ball."   

Wellington Phoenix 5 (Zawada 3, Payne & Kraev) Brisbane Roar 2 (Berenguer & Mileusnic) 

Meanwhile, the Phoenix women have also created a piece of history, with their first back-to-back A-League victories.

Captain and Football Fern Annalie Longo produced "a moment of magic" with a goal in the 85th minute of her club debut to seal a 2-1 win over the Roar women.

Annalie Longo in action for Wellington Phoenix.
Annalie Longo in action for Wellington Phoenix. Photo credit: Photosport

Mariana Speckmaier put the home side ahead in the sixth minute with a header, before Longo's clincher and a consolation goal to Mia Corbin in added time.

"Spectacular goal," admired Phoenix coach Paul Temple. "A moment of magic that I know she's been waiting a long, long time to have, so I'm really pleased for her and a great way to start her Phoeni career."

After defeating Western Sydney 3-0 last week, the Phoenix hover near the top of the women's table.

Wellington Phoenix 2 (Speckmaier & Longo) Brisbane Roar 1 (Corbin)