Phoenix's A-League playoff bid suffers double blow

Author
Simon Kay, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 8 May 2021, 11:45AM
Phoenix attacker Ulises Davila skips past Adelaide's Louis D'Arrigo before a hamstring injury forced him off. (Photo / Getty Images)
Phoenix attacker Ulises Davila skips past Adelaide's Louis D'Arrigo before a hamstring injury forced him off. (Photo / Getty Images)

Phoenix's A-League playoff bid suffers double blow

Author
Simon Kay, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sat, 8 May 2021, 11:45AM

Adelaide 0
Phoenix 0

The Wellington Phoenix's A-League playoff hopes suffered a double blow, held to a scoreless draw in Adelaide and losing key creative talent Ulises Davila to injury.

The Phoenix are unbeaten in six games now but three of the last four have been draws and those dropped points have stalled the side's drive for a top-six spot.

The exception was a 2-1 victory over Adelaide in Wollongong two weeks ago, won with a 97th-minute Tomer Hemed penalty.

Wellington's two games since have been much less drama-free — two 0-0 draws. The first was played in torrential conditions in Brisbane. There were no such mitigating meteorological factors in Adelaide.

The draw means just five points separate second-placed Adelaide from ninth-placed Wellington.

But the games played column is as pertinent as points earned when assessing the table. The Phoenix have played 21 — that's more than seven of the eight teams above them.

And with just five regular-season games remaining, they are running out of opportunities to entrench themselves among the playoff places.

Of even greater concern is the loss of Davila, the team's attacking talisman who limped off with a hamstring strain with half an hour remaining.

Much of Wellington's best work going forward flows through Davila, and without the Mexican there as a conduit, their attacks are more likely to short-circuit than spark into life.

A general lack of precision from both sides meant a 0-0 draw was both fair and unsurprising.

Adelaide created few decent scoring opportunities and Wellington conjured even less.

The hosts had the better of the opening exchanges. Their early pressure culminated in an Oli Sail diving save to keep out a Tomi Juric header from an 11th-minute corner and the Phoenix keeper also had to get his body behind a couple of other Adelaide shots.

Wellington proved more competitive as the half progressed but failed to create an opportunity of note.

United keeper Joe Gauci didn't have a first-half save to make, with Wellington's best effort a 34th-minute shot from David Ball that curled tamely high and wide.

Their next best 'chance' was an ambitious penalty appeal two minutes later after Davila's shot from a corner struck Jordan Elsey. The VAR needed only one replay before it was case dismissed.

Steven Taylor's experience proved invaluable as he was invariably in the right place at the right time to intercept or block crosses.

Fans were hopeful the game would open up after the break and both sides put early chances narrowly wide — Jaushua Sotirio for Wellington and the consistently threatening Ben Halloran for Adelaide — but it proved a false dawn.

Reno Piscopo joined the fray off the bench around the hour mark and made a difference. He surged into the area and shot straight at Gauci in the 70th minute in what turned out to be Wellington's best chance.

And then three minutes later, he drew a foul from Ryan Strain which saw the Adelaide defender pick up his second yellow card. But the Phoenix were unable to capitalise on their one-man advantage, perhaps unsurprising with Davila off the pitch.

Instead, Wellington needed Sail to make two more saves. Kusini Yengi drove into the area and looked well placed to score but blasted his shot straight at Sail, who had to dive low to his right to keep out a long-range Halloran shot minutes later.