The Wellington Phoenix aren’t just last in the A-League, they’re utterly lost.
Sydney inflicted a humiliating 7-1 defeat upon the Phoenix at Allianz Stadium tonight, heaping further pressure upon the franchise owner Welnix and coach Ricki Herbert.
This was the Phoenix’s biggest ever loss in the A-League and the manner of it will be a concern to everyone at the club.
Despite having fallen to last ahead of tonight’s clash, the Phoenix have steadfastly dismissed all criticism of their set-up or performances.
Someone will surely stand up now and concede that something has to change at the club.
In years to come, when Phoenix fans talk of the worst halves they ever saw their team play, this one will undoubtedly be one of the first they refer to.
Saying that the team trailed by 5-0 at halftime, or inside 39 minutes to be precise, tells part of the story. But it can’t adequately convey the defensive ineptitude that characterised the Phoenix’s performance.
It’s not as if Sydney have been travelling too well either. They were second-last coming into this match, but on this evidence there’s quite a gulf between ninth and 10th in this league.
Sydney did produce some nice stuff, as you would when a game starts to resemble a barely-opposed training run. That’s how far the Phoenix have fallen in a short space of time.
Once the most disciplined defensive unit in the league, the Phoenix now appear to have no solidarity about them at all.
The midfield were, again, totally absent, leaving Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund cruelly exposed at the back.
Alessandro Del Piero split the pair perfectly to put Joel Griffiths in for the first goal of the match.
Griffiths, in his first match for Sydeny FC, calmly slotted the ball past an advancing Mark Paston to put his new team ahead in just the 11th minute.
Ten minutes later it was Del Piero’s turn, as he scored the first of what would become a first-half hat-trick. Jason Culina got a goal too, as the carve-up continued.
Durante was dudded for the second of Del Piero’s goals, after referee Kris Griffith-Jones wrongly pointed to the penalty spot.
Culina had simply bundled Durante over and if anyone deserved the whistle to blow in their favour it was the Phoenix captain. But that was the only mitigating circumstance where the goals were concerned. The rest, could and should, have been dealt with by the Phoenix before a Sydney shot went on goal.
The second half was always going to be ant-climactic, given the game was completely over. But there was still the opportunity to admire Del Piero, who added a fourth goal to his personal tally after mesmerising Durante and then curling another shot into the top corner of Paston’s goal.
Sigmund managed a late goal for the Phoenix, but it was of no consolation.
The interest now is in how the Phoenix’s owners might react. Till now they’ve done nothing but praise Herbert, despite requesting a change of playing style which was hardly an endorsement of his methods.
Herbert is a fighter, but for now, his team has given up.
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