Beers on Kurto after stellar second half saves Phoenix
Wellington Phoenix head coach Mark Rudan has praised Filip Kurto’s heroics after the goalkeeper helped his side hold on for a 1-0 win over Melbourne City on Saturday night.
The Pole made six saves in the second half to thwart City’s onslaught and pulled off a tremendous, double-save near the death to earn Wellington a crucial home victory.
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Rudan had nothing but positives for his keeper, though he did remind Kurto those saves would come at a financial cost.
“He’s definitely earned his money today and he’ll earn it again afterwards when he shouts the players (beers),” said Rudan.
“Filip Kurto was outstanding, we recruited extremely well, I believe.
“And he’s paid to stop shots, it’s as simple as that.
“I keep reminding him of that — he doesn’t make too many mistakes, does he?”
Kurto wasn’t the only player on-song for the Phoenix.
Sarpreet Singh had another lively game, while former fringe players Louis Fenton and Alex Rufer have enjoyed a renaissance under Rudan’s regime.
It was the perfect response from a Wellington outfit unlucky not to grab a point against Sydney FC midweek. On that Wednesday afternoon, the Phoenix threw the kitchen sink at the Sky Blues but were unable to overturn the 1-0 deficit, ending their nine-game unbeaten run.
“That was the focus, making sure we got a reaction after the loss (against Sydney FC),” said Rudan.
“Overall, the performance against Sydney FC was very good — as I said, there were a lot of positive messages after that game.
“I thought (today) was a stellar performance, the boys dug deep in the second half, they began to play between our lines in the second half so I changed the formation somewhat with about 15 minutes to go and it did help.”
The Phoenix take on Perth Glory, Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC in three of their four upcoming games, with all three teams currently higher on the ladder than Rudan’s side.
Never one to look too far ahead, Rudan insisted on the importance of focusing on the present and taking things one game at a time.
“You keep reminding me of who we’ve got coming up, all I know is that we had to play two games back-to-back,” said Rudan.
“It was our third game in six days, there was fatigue that began to set in as well.
“Now we regroup, freshen up and we’ve got — I think — eight days now until the Perth game and that’ll be our full focus.”
3am sleeps no excuse for City
Melbourne City’s head coach Warren Joyce has called upon his team to take ownership of games and ‘start out of the blocks’ from the opening whistle, after another slow start saw City concede an early goal.
David Williams did the damage in the fifth minute, forcing City to chase the game — a difficult prospect when away from home, let alone in Wellington.
Despite their difficult preparations, including a late sleep and dealing with travel and changes in timezones, Joyce urged his players to show Championship-winning maturity.
“The lads went to be at 3 o’clock in the morning, but you can’t use that as an excuse,” said Joyce.
“You’ve got to drive the game, trust your fitness, drive the game, be positive, don’t be whinging about the referee’s decision.”
Considering their slow start, City grew into the game, particularly in the second half.
They were unlucky not to find the back of the net, but for some Kurto heroics and perhaps City’s own deficiencies up front.
Joyce was focussed on the team overall, noting their need to convert their dominance into points.
“Certainly in the second half (we were) the dominant team — 12-plus shots at goal and the keeper’s pulled off some worldie saves,” said Joyce.
“Obviously there were times where they countered and looked dangerous but the dominant side certainly deserved something out of the game, certainly deserved to win.”