20 Apr 2024

Wellington Phoenix keep A-League premiership hopes alive with draw against Newcastle Jets

6:36 am on 20 April 2024
Apostolos Stamatelopoulos of the Jets competes for the ball with Alex Rufer of the Phoenix.

Apostolos Stamatelopoulos of the Jets competes for the ball with Alex Rufer of the Phoenix. Photo: Scott Gardiner

The Wellington Phoenix have gone back to the top of the A-League after a 1-1 draw with the Newcastle Jets in their penultimate game of the regular season.

The result puts them one point clear of rivals Central Coast Mariners who were gearing up to play Adelaide FC on Sunday but that match has been postponed.

In a dramatic turn, the Phoenix will have to wait a bit longer to know their fate with the Central Coast's penultimate A-League game, which was scheduled for Sunday, to be rescheduled due to the team's travel disruptions.

The Mariners played the first leg of their AFC Cup interzonal playoff against Kyrgyzstan champions Abdish-Ata Kant on Wednesday night.

They were scheduled to fly home to face Adelaide on Sunday in Gosford however flooding at Dubai International Airport has affected their players and staff.

"Due to the Central Coast Mariners' flight cancellations from Dubai Airport en route back from Kyrgyzstan, and re-routing of flights due to the adverse weather conditions in the region, the Round 25 A-League Men fixture scheduled for this Sunday needs to be postponed," the league's statement said.

Phoenix skipper Alex Rufer had a chance to seal the victory in the final minutes of regular time but his penalty found the outside rather than the inside of the right post and Newcastle held on to claim a point.

Striker Kosta Barbarouses scored his 12th goal of the season midway through the second half to draw the Wellington side level after the Jets had snatched an early lead.

Meanwhile, Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano told media post-match he'd hoped to put pressure on the Mariners by taking the three points.

"I probably would have been happier if we won the game because it would have put pressure on Mariners," he said.

"But again the football gods, as you saw tonight, it doesn't always go to script.

Italiano was happy with his side's response after they trailed 1-0 at halftime.

"We made the changes, the intent was fantastic in the second half and it was probably some of the best football we've played for a long time.

"We created a lot of chances and sometimes the football gods smile on you and sometimes they don't.

"I feel as though if we played that game over 10 times we probably would have won that game 5 or 6-1."

"Of course it's disappointing," Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano told media post-match. "When you miss a penalty in the last minute I think that goes without saying.

"I was mainly disappointed, not because of the penalty miss, but the amount of chances we didn't capitalise [on]."

The Wellington Phoenix take on Macarthur FC at Sky Stadium in Wellington on Saturday night.

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