Phoenix overpower Sydney FC
A Ben Sigmund header and a stoppage-time goal from substitute Paul Ifill sealed an entertaining 4-2 win for Wellington Phoenix over Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium.
After scoring the match-winner against Perth Glory in similar fashion in December, Sigmund’s header gave Phoenix's top six aspirations a major boost, before Ifill completed his comeback from a groin injury to put the icing on the cake.
The win – Phoenix's second against Sydney at home this season – saw them leapfrog the Sky Blues to take fourth spot.
The first half was a tale of two penalties as Brett Emerton and Daniel traded spot kicks before Dani Sanchez chipped Sydney keeper Liam Reddy to give Phoenix a 2-1 lead at the break.
A soft goal to Bruno Cazarine, who was also denied by the woodwork twice, got Sydney back on level terms until Sigmund rose above the Sky Blues defence to head home in the 78th minute, leaving it to Ifill to wrap things up in his own inimitable style.
There was barely a dull moment in the opening 45 minutes, although Wellington had the better of the early chances with Sanchez curling a free-kick just wide of Reddy's goal in the fourth minute then hitting the side netting four minutes later.
Mark Bridge had an excellent chance to opening the scoring in the 15th minute when he got on the end of a poor Sigmund clearance but Phoenix keeper Tony Warner made an excellent one-handed save to deny the Sydney striker.
Despite both teams playing with good width and creating chances, the first two goals came from the penalty spot as first Phoenix midfielder Vince Lia then Sydney defender Jamie Coyne handled in the box.
Emerton blasted his spot kick past Warner in the 16th minute to give Sydney the lead, and nine minutes later Daniel calmly slotted his past Reddy to level the scores.
Sydney should have taken the lead in the 32nd minute when Coyne's pinpoint through ball set up Cazarine but his shot came back off the post.
Reddy was then forced into a double save at the other end from Sanchez then Leo Bertos.
The deadlock was eventually broken in the 42nd minute when Sydney coughed up possession and Daniel's long-range cross picked out Sanchez, who chipped Reddy to notch his fourth of the season.
Phoenix endured a nervous finish to the half as Manny Muscat’s attempted clearance came back off the underside of Warner's crossbar. Cazarine latched onto the rebound but he was denied by the woodwork again.
The second half started at a slower pace, with neither goalkeeper unduly troubled.
Ifill replaced Chris Greenacre on the hour mark but it was Sydney – who had earlier brought on Rhyan Grant for Jamie Coyne and Juho Makela for Dimitri Petratos – who got the equaliser after poor goalkeeping from Warner.
Emerton burst from midfield to put Cazarine clear, leaving the Phoenix keeper flatfooted and he couldn’t stop the Brazilian’s shot trickling over the line.
Phoenix pressed hard for the winner and were duly rewarded, when Sigmund latched on to a Bertos corner in the 77th minute.
Warner was called into action again as Sydney tried for an equaliser but this time he held firmly onto Cazarine's fierce shot.
Reddy though had no such luck against his former teammate Ifill, who coolly fired into the far corner in the 90th minute to put the result beyond doubt.
Wellington Phoenix 4 (Daniel 26p, Daniel Sanchez 42, Ben Sigmund 79, Paul Ifill 90+4)
Sydney FC 2 (Brett Emerton 16p, Bruno Cazarine 63)