Football: Wellington Phoenix continue undefeated start to A-League season with victory over Western United

Wellington Phoenix have stretched their unbeaten A-League run to seven games, with a 1-0 win over Western United at Ballarat, and now lead the Aussie competition outright.

Despite plentiful chances on goal, the visitors seemed destined to go home with shared honours, until newly re-signed substitute Ben Old found the back of the net in the 79th minute.

Breaking over halfway, he played wide to Kosta Barbarouses, who fed a perfect ball into the goalmouth. Old met it first time to beat United keeper Tom Heward-Belle, but the linesman's flag went up for offside.

Tempers flare between Wellington Phoenix and Western United.
Tempers flare between Wellington Phoenix and Western United. Photo credit: Getty Images

While Old's body language suggested he would be denied, a long video examination convinced game officials he had stayed within his ground and the goal was allowed.

"Honestly, I didn't think I was offside, but the linesman put it up straight away," said Old. "Kosta said, 'No no no, you're on', so I started to have some belief.

"After the ref was taking more and more time, I got more belief. I've had it before, where I've been ruled offside by VAR, so I wasn't holding out hope."

The result means Wellington have now gone seven games without defeat, collecting their fourth win to go with three draws. They now sit atop the competition table, after co-leaders Western Sydney Wanderers were held to a 2-2 by Brisbane Roar on Friday.

Barbarouses has won A-League titles with Brisbane Roar, Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC, and senses the Phoenix may yet add to that impressive CV.

"I go into every pre-season with that intention, otherwise what are we doing here," he said. "We always put the hard yards in and see where we land.

"After six games, it's going really well. The table doesn't lie, but as we all know, it can change very quickly, so we've got to keep our feet on the ground."

The Phoenix had other chances to score, probably the best coming within seconds of the second half restart, when Tim Payne found the left upright with his right foot and Lukas Kelly-Heald forced a vital save from Heward-Belle from the rebound.

Star striker Oskar Zawada started the contest on the bench, but entered the game for David Ball midway through the second half. He found himself in front of goal, after a through ball from Sam Sutton, but his strike went over the bar.

Phoenix keeper Alex Paulsen kept his third clean sheet of the season, but was called on to make several saves.

Wellington host Newcastle United next Saturday.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Old) Western United 0