Phoenix continue run with win against Heart

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 23:42 27/12/2013
Wellington Phoenix in 2013/14
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Wellington Phoenix players huddle together before their clash with Adelaide United at Westpac Stadium.
Stein Huysegems
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Stein Huysegems

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Having shaken a horror winless streak, the Wellington Phoenix have now started a winning run after posting consecutive victories for the first time since March, 2012, at AAMI Park tonight.

As he did in Sunday's 1-0 defeat of Sydney FC, Stein Huysegems scored the winner, this time in the 75th minute against the still winless Melbourne Heart.

The game had been billed as the desperation derby, and a scoreless stalemate appeared on the cards as both teams botched some great chances before the Belgian's breakthrough.

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick can take a slice of the credit for an inspired substitution, bringing teenager Tyler Boyd on for a misfiring Jeremy Brockie in the 72nd minute.

The move paid immediate dividends, as Boyd shook off a tiring Aziz Behich to create acres of space on the right flank, and his cross was right on the money for Huysegems to tap in for his fourth goal of the season.

The win was a massive breakthrough for the Phoenix, who became the first New Zealand football club to score a victory in Victoria since the ill-fated Kingz beat the Melbourne Knights a decade ago.

It lifted the Phoenix to 10 points after 12 rounds, equal with eighth-placed Adelaide United.

The visitors again showcased their new high intensity, high pressing style, and bossed possession for large stretches.

But playing a high defensive line also made them vulnerable to the counter-attack and only a mixture of inept Heart finishing and inspirational Phoenix defending kept Glen Moss' goal intact.

Moss himself made a great save from Michael Mifsud shortly after halftime, while impressive skipper Andrew Durante dived manfully in front of the rebound and went down winded as David Williams blasted into his midriff.

The game could have easily finished as any one of the three possible results.But the Heart are even lower in confidence in front of goal than the Phoenix, who will stay on in Australia to play the Western Sydney Wanderers on New Year's Day.

There was a possible dampener on the win however, as industrious right back Louis Fenton left the pitch clutching his right shoulder in the dying stages.

Fenton dislocated his shoulder in the pre-season and a recurrence would be a big blow as he was finally starting to get to grips with his new position.

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The scoreless first half summed up both club's seasons - creating plenty of chances but squandering them all.

Carlos Hernandez went closest, hitting the wrong side of the post with a long-range strike in the 10th minute.

That would have been brilliant, but two minutes earlier Brockie - way down in confidence - had hit an easier chance wide after a great long ball from the newly re-signed Manny Muscat.

Merrick continued to encourage his back four to push forward and it was on the break that Williams, the Heart's top scorer this season with four goals, botched the best chance of the first half, skewing a Michael Mifsud cross wide from close range.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Stein Huysegems) Melbourne Heart 0. HT: 0-0

- Fairfax Media

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