The Wellington Phoenix are banking on the health of their imports after a blunt display saw them fall 1-0 to Auckland City at Kiwitea Street.
In a game billed as big-name encounter, it was left up to one of the lesser-known players to break the deadlock, with City substitute Sam Burfoot rifling home an 86th minute winner.
The Phoenix started with experienced campaigners Andrew Durante, Manny Muscat and Glen Moss on the bench, with coach Ernie Merrick giving lesser established players a chance to stake their claims with their season just around the corner.
Additionally, Merrick's side were missing key imports Kenny Cunningham, Paul Ifill and Carlos Hernandez to injury, leaving a squad bereft of creativity as they took on the Oceania Champions League victors.
The Navy Blues had all the early running, forcing Phoenix custodian Jacob Spoonley into several strong saves, including a superb stop from a trademark Roy Krishna piledriver. Krishna's partner in crime Emiliano Tade also came close, wasting several chances after creating clear opportunities.
While the Phoenix began to string passes together late in the half, they lacked a cutting edge, with Auckland goalkeeper Tamati Williams only being called into action to make a sharp save from a Ben Sigmund effort.
Halftime changes brought five established squad members into the fray for the Phoenix, with their second half outfit being far more indicative of their squad which shall be suiting up for their first A-League encounter on the 13th of October against the Brisbane Roar.
As a result, the Phoenix started to dominate possession, with the introduction of Manny Muscat, Tyler Boyd and Alex Rufer resulting in increased off-ball movement, but little in terms of chances as City centre-backs Angel Berlanga and first-half substitute John Irving mopped up all potential dangers.
The match which started with intent began to peter out with a multitude of changes, until Burfoot stepped up with a moment of brilliance, striking a screamer past the previously-unoccupied Glen Moss to pinch a deserved victory for the hosts.
- Fairfax Media
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