Phoenix lose but are match for Newcastle
Maybe it was the dew.
Whatever the cause, the second leg of today's Westpac Stadium double-header was a far slicker affair. Never mind the result, a 1-0 win to Newcastle United over the Wellington Phoenix, it was more important that we all got to see some quality football, after the stodge served up earlier by Sydney FC and West Ham United.
That was a game best left forgotten, unlike this main course.
This had pace and intent and a good degree of intensity for a friendly, with a sizeable crowd 30,968 and atmosphere to match. The quality of both teams' final touch, or pass, probably let them down, but you'd have to conclude this has been a worthwhile exercise for Phoenix owners Welnix.
The only shame is that the start of the A-League season is still months away. It would be great if it could start next week, while the interest is at some sort of peak, instead of October.
The Phoenix were more than worthy foes for Newcastle. From the outset Albert Riera was looking as good on the ball as anyone, while Tyler Boyd and Tom Doyle, on the overlap, were prepared to run at defenders.
Jeremy Brockie will be remembered for spurning a host of first and second half chances. but at least he was lively and putting himself in positions to score. If you do that often enough the goals will come.
It was 41 minutes before either side could conjure one, when Newcastle's Youhann Gouffan lobbed a header into the back of the net. From a corner, the ball had been played short to Vurnon Anita who hung one into the mixer.
Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss was enticed, but couldn't get there, and Gouffan's effort slipped quietly over the goal line.
Newcastle had played some nice stuff to that point and continued to, without ever really threatening Moss' goal. The same couldn't be said for Brockie, who had a first-half header hit the post (only to be ruled offside), then couldn't convert opportunities in the 56th and 63rd minutes.
Rob Elliott palmed the first one past the post, before getting the better of a situation that had looked entirely in Brockie's favour.
Ben Sigmund put him through one-on-one with the big Irishman. Brockie had time to pick his spot, perhaps too much, and couldn't slip his left-footed shot past the advancing goalkeeper.
Brockie stood rooted to the spot for some time, obviously trying to work out why he hadn't scored.
It was just as surprising from the stands, but Brockie will get goals if he keeps himself positive and patient.
The same for the Phoenix. They can play, they've shown that, but it's doing it over an entire A-League season that's this summer's challenge.