Football: Wellington Phoenix will miss Eden Park payday, support when Auckland FC join A-League

Wellington Phoenix have bid Eden Park a fond farewell, but must now try to replicate that lost support base at their own home venue at Sky Stadium.

Striker Kosta Barbarouses contributed to both goals, including an outstanding solo winner, as the Phoenix rallied 2-1 against Sydney FC, extending their unbeaten record - now seven wins, five draws - at the Auckland venue.

For their last 'home' game at the self-titled national stadium, they drew 18,000 spectators, 50 percent more than their biggest attendance in the capital this season - 12,000 in a top-of-the-table clash with Central Coast Mariners last month - and double the next biggest.

Wellington Phoenix enjoy another big turnout at Eden Park.
Wellington Phoenix enjoy another big turnout at Eden Park. Photo credit: Photosport

Over those dozen fixtures at Eden Park, the Wellingtonians have averaged 18,000, but next time they run out onto the hallowed turf, they will be the visitors against new expansion side Auckland FC.

As a last chance to retain the hearts and minds of their Auckland fanbase, many of whom will be lost to the local newcomers, the performance could not have been better - but don't tell that to Phoenix coach Giancarlo Italiano.

"I don't want to talk about Auckland FC," he insisted. "They still don't exist to me until next year and the first game.

"The fact we had a good crowd meant we had a lot of supporters across the country. I'm very happy for the players that they experienced that, because it's great to be part of 18-20,000.

"We've had some big games over the years... crowds make games."

Sydney coach Ufuk Talay - a much-beloved former Phoenix gaffer for four seasons - has been a past beneficiary of the Eden Park patronage, but is enthusiastic over the addition of another NZ A-League club.

"I think it's fantastic we get another team in the competition," he said. "It opens a lot of pathways to young Kiwi talent.

"We work in a salary-cap competition, so it's quite restrictive at times to bring in players or even sign players. It's great for Kiwi football and Australian football at the same time, because it opens up opportunities for Australian players to come across as well.

"What a great thing it's going to be with the Kiwi derby, with Wellington and Auckland? It's a fantastic addition to the competition."