Ernie Merrick hails effort in Phoenix's first win

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 23/12/2013

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Better late than never.

The Wellington Phoenix have finally notched their first win of the A-League season with last night's 1-0 defeat of Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium snapping a club record 11 game winless streak

It was coach Ernie Merrick's first win at the Phoenix and he deserves credit for remaining calm and positive throughout the tortuous run of near misses, reasoning that the law of averages would eventually apply with results matching performance.

Stein Huysegems - who had scored just twice this season and had been guilty of botching some gilt-edged chances - scored the winner in the 33rd minute.

The former Belgium international ran on to a gorgeous, threaded Carlos Hernandez through ball, rounded goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic and hit the target with his preferred left boot from an acute angle.

Huysegems was euphoric and as he sprinted towards the Phoenix dugout it appeared he was going to capture Merrick in a bear hug before instead embracing his team-mates.

"It's great for the boys," Merrick said.

"We not only won but we played well. But I didn't feel there was a lot of difference between that game and three or four other games we've played recently. The backline were rock solid, pushed up high, we were prepared to press them in their own half and take risks at the back.

"And when we won the ball it wasn't a long ball forward, it was good inter-passing and we created a bag-load of chances. I felt we were two or three goals better than Sydney tonight and they're not a bad team at all."

It had looked like more of the same as both teams wasted some great goalscoring opportunities in the first half.

Sydney - perhaps arrogantly - decided to rest both marquees Alessandro Del Piero and Brett Emerton and the Sky Blues just aren't the same threat without their superstar Italian. The Phoenix weren't overly troubled in the second half and the home fans were able to whip their shirts off after 80 minutes for the first time this season.

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- Fairfax Media

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