As the season inches closer to its conclusion, every game has huge implications on the finals run in and this weekend, the clash with Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC is going to be just that. Just one-point separates both sides on the table with the Sky Blues occupying sixth and the Kiwi’s in 5th. Sydney FC will be hoping to gain all three points and carry momentum into the next fixture which is the Sydney Derby at home.
For Steve Corica’s Sydney, they come into this clash following a comfortable 1-0 victory over Melbourne Victory in which they were defensively resolute against a varied attack. A brilliant solo goal from Anthony Caceres from the re-worked short corner was dispatched into the top corner in front of The Cove as they held on to all three points, beginning to re-find the home form that they were known for in the past.
After Melbourne City halted the unbeaten run at four games two weeks prior, Sydney FC will be looking to make it two wins in a row when they head across the ditch on Sunday afternoon.
This will be the first time that the Sky Blues have been in New Zealand since December 2019 when they played out a 2-2 draw at Sky Stadium. Adam Le Fondre was on the scoresheet that day and unfortunately he will miss this clash as he works his way back from a hamstring complaint. On the injury front, only Le Fondre will be absent with Jack Rodwell back in the squad after his groin in jury, however Adrian Segecic and Jake Girdwood-Reich are still with the Australian U20’s squad and will miss this clash. Max Burgess is suspended for this clash after he picked up a red card in the Big Blue and will miss the next two matches.
In the previous meeting between the two sides at Allianz Stadium in January, what unfolded was one of the craziest finishes to a match in Isuzu UTE A-League history. Wellington Phoenix, down to nine men, conceded two stoppage time penalties of which both were miraculously missed. One was saved by Oli Sail and the penalty a minute later was sent high and wide by the same taker, Adam Le Fondre.
Wellington Phoenix have found their return to Wellington tumultuous, with a mixed variety of results. Last week they dispatched Newcastle Jets 2-1, albeit surviving a late Newcastle onslaught. The week prior, they drew 1-1 with nine men Central Coast Mariners in Gosford after a 3-0 victory in Tasmania over Western United.
Their results in New Zealand this season have been very inconsistent. They have played nine across the ditch, winning four, drawing three and losing two. What this does represent however is their determination to not be beaten on their own turf. The last time they played at Eden Park was a homecoming match against Western Sydney Wanderers last season in which they ran out 1-0 winners in a tight and even contest. In their history, they have never lost a match at the venue, however they are yet to score more than two goals in any match there.
This weekend, it would be no surprise to see Wellington take the lead, however their ability to hold onto that lead is the worst in the league. They have dropped 20 points from winning positions and on the contrary, Sydney FC are the best at recovering from losing positions. So far, they have gained 14 points from losing positions, an amazing relentlessness to find an equaliser and possibly a winner.
With plenty of crazy history in this fixture and the added tension of a visit to Eden Park, this Sunday’s clash has the potential to be one of the games of the season. With plenty on the line in terms of finals places, you will not want to miss this one.
Ones to Watch
Anthony Caceres – Sydney FC
The creative midfielder has flown under the radar this season with the arrival of Joe Lolley and Robert Mak, however Caceres’ impact has been just as important. With some of the best feet in the league, the number 17 has found the net twice this season, once against Brisbane Roar and the other last weekend against Melbourne Victory.
A consistent starter, Caceres hasn’t missed a match this season, starting 19 of 19 and has been a key part of Steve Corica’s formational change, playing in a slightly different role to what he did last year that saw him win the Sydney FC Player of the Year. He is more of a play-maker this season, making 863 passes of which 89% of them have been successful, and has two assists to his name too.
With amazing technical feet, Caceres has won 29 fouls this season and been very disciplined himself, only picking up two yellow cards this season. With the expansiveness of Eden Park on his side, the midfielder will be looking to create more for others and hopefully get on the scoresheet once again.
Oskar Zawada – Wellington Phoenix
Zawada joined the Wellington Phoenix in August 2022 on a two-year contract. The 1.92m tall striker has played professionally in Germany, the Netherlands, Poland and South Korea over the past decade before signing for The ‘Nix.
He has played in all 19 matches since his arrival and has scored 11 goals, one of which came in the reverse fixture at Allianz Stadium. He has scored in eight of the last nine matches, one of the best finishing records that Wellington Phoenix have ever seen. In the only game of the run he didn’t score, the Polish striker found an assist and he will be in and around the box looking for more. Zawada has scored each of his 11 goals from inside the box, with three of them coming from his head.
Wellington Phoenix v Sydney FC
Isuzu UTE A-League Round 20
Sunday 12th March 2023
Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand
Kick Off: 1:00pm AEDT (3:00pm Local)
Broadcast Live: Paramount+
Tickets: Click Here