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Brazilian midfielder Yan Sasse celebrates with Bozhidar Kraev after scoring the Phoenix’s opening goal.
At University of Tasmania Stadium, Launceston: Wellington Phoenix 3 (Yan Sasse 18’, Bozhidar Kraev 58’, Oskar Zawada pen-64’) Western United 0. HT: 1-0
Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay has hailed his team’s emphatic win over Western United as the “complete performance.”
The Phoenix reinvigorated their season by beating the defending A-League Men champions 3-0 in a stylish display at the University of Tasmania Stadium in Launceston on Friday night.
Believe it or not they even scored a penalty.
Spectacular goals from Yan Sasse and Bozhidar Kraev in either half gave the Phoenix a comfortable two-goal buffer before Oskar Zawada stepped up to convert a spot-kick to snap a three-game winless run.
“It was a good turnaround from our last three games. Overall I thought it was a complete performance for the 90 minutes,” an elated Talay said after the game.
“We were good on the ball, we broke them down and we scored some fantastic goals, probably should have scored a couple more, and defended well as well.”
Kraev played a part in all three goals as the Bulgarian midfielder well and truly rediscovered his mojo after a quiet spell, having been one of the best performers in the league in the early rounds.
He teed up Sasse for the 19th minute opener, which got the ball rolling in a game the Phoenix dominated.
The Brazilian dribbled towards the Western United defence and cut inside two players before blasting the ball past goalkeeper Jamie Young from outside the penalty area for just his second of goal of the season.
After sending an audacious volley wide moments earlier, Kraev doubled the Phoenix’s lead in the 58th minute when he charged through midfield and let rip from a similar position to Sasse, bending the ball past an outstretched Young from well outside the area.
The goal took Kraev’s season tally to seven.
After having a penalty saved in their defeat against Macarthur last weekend, Zawada made no mistake on this occasion when he answered coach Ufuk Talay’s call to step up and take their next penalty.
The Phoenix won the 64th minute spot-kick when Kraev was bundled over by Tongo Doumbia.
Zawada produced a long run-up and then coolly buried the ball into the bottom left corner to become the first Phoenix player to convert a penalty in five attempts, banishing their demons from last weekend.
“That’s what I was thinking, [that we can’t miss five in a row], when we got the pen,” Talay said.
“It was great that Oskar stepped up. He missed one last weekend but he stepped up and he put this one away so hopefully we continue in that fashion.”
Zawada’s goal was his ninth in 11 games, putting him within touching distance of his target of 10 goals.
The scoreline could have been even bigger had it not been for Young’s heroics in goal for Western.
The veteran shotstopper pulled off a crucial save early in the game, diving low and sticking out his right hand to deny Sasse after Kraev put him one-on-one with the goalkeeper.
The Phoenix saw two great chances go begging in the final moments of the game.
Substitute Sam Sutton accelerated into the box and delivered a neat cross for David Ball, who almost made it four goals for the foreigners, but the Englishman agonisingly headed wide.
Zawada then tried to chip Young after being played over the top but the ball took a touch off the goalkeeper and went out for a corner.
Phoenix goalkeeper Oli Sail himself made a big save late in the game, diving to his right to stop Lachie Wales from close-range to keep just his third clean sheet of the season.
The only blip for the Phoenix on an otherwise perfect night was right-back Callan Elliot picking up his fifth yellow card of the season after grabbing the shirt of striker Aleksandar Prijovic as he charged through on goal.
The recipient of the young player of the month award will now miss the team’s trip to play the second-place Central Coast Mariners next Friday.