Football: Wellington Phoenix move clear atop A-League Men ladder with victory over Newcastle Jets

  • 28/01/2024

Oskar Zawada has made an immediate impact on return to Wellington Phoenix, scoring the match-winning goal in their 2-1 win over Newcastle Jets on Saturday.

The striker hadn't featured for the Phoenix since suffering a thigh contusion in early December, but instantly made his presence felt by slotting home a well crafted team goal in the 87th minute at McDonald Jones Stadium.

The result lifts the Phoenix two points clear atop the A-League Men standings 14 rounds into the 27-round season.

The visitors opened the scoring inside the opening two minutes, after David Ball was the victim of a blatant foul inside the Jets box.

Captain Alex Rufer stepped up to calmly put the ball into the back of the net off the spot for his third goal in as many games.

Phoenix players celebrate Zawada's goal.
Phoenix players celebrate Zawada's goal. Photo credit: Getty Images

The Jets looked like they may have snatched a late point, when substitute Trent Buhagiar drew his side level in the 80th minute - deflecting a Kostandinos Grozos shot from outside the box past a wrongfooted Alex Paulsen in the Phoenix goal.

But the Phoenix weren't done yet, as stand-out substitute Ben Old laid on a perfectly weighted pass for Zawada to steal his side the spoils.

"I'm very happy with the win," Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano said after the game. 

"I thought we merited the three points. I think we had the bigger chances in the game and upon reflection in the first half we should have scored three goals.

"Unfortunately we conceded another soft goal off a set piece, which we need to get better [at and] not allow teams to come into the game.

"I wasn't happy just taking the credit to Oldie (Ben Old), Oz coming on, OVH (Oskar van Hattum) they did really well and they got us the win."

Italiano said he's pleased to have some breathing space at the top of the ladder, but isn't looking too far ahead. 

"I keep saying this and I know it sounds cliché, but we take it game by game.

"We'll reassess our goals probably in a month's time closer to the business end of the season.

"We've got a congested fixture list now with three games within 10 days and that'll be a big indication of where we're at.

"Once we feel we're comfortable as a group with where we're going then we'll put some other goals in place."

The Wellington Phoenix will travel to the Gold Coast on Monday, where they will train in the lead-up to Friday night's match against the Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium.