Ball flattens City as Phoenix shore up top six spot
Wellington Phoenix tightened their spot in the Hyundai A-League top six and deflated Melbourne City's hopes of chasing Sydney FC by beating the visitors 1-0 at Eden Park on Saturday night.
Phoenix number nine David Ball finished off a superb counter attacking move on the hour mark to earn Ufuk Talay's side the victory, and move within three points of second-placed Melbourne City.
The New Zealanders remain undefeated at Eden Park in the Hyundai A-League, having won four and drawn three of their matches at the famous Auckland stadium.
Their latest triumph was hard earned against a City side who dominated the shot count 13-5, but found Phoenix shot stopper Stefan Marinovic in fine form.
City remain second on the ladder but Erick Mombaerts' side trailing leaders Sydney FC by 10 points, having played three games more.
Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren spurned the first opportunity of the occasion after Marinovic's uncharacteristic giveaway, and at the other end it was makeshift defender Rostyn Griffiths who kept the scores level.
Ball latched onto Ulises Davila's pass and clipped it it past City 'keeper Tom Glover but Griffiths raced back in time to clear it off the line.
Although Video Assistant Referee came to the rescue to chalk off Matti Steinmann's goal for offside, City's makeshift defence were standing their ground well in New Zealand, and Erick Mombearts' men will lament their failure to take the lead when Maclaren found himself in on goal late in the opening half.
Marinovic was by far the busier of the two keepers in the second and needed to keep out Craig Noone's effort with a firm hand, as Phoenix broke the deadlock with a lovely counter attacking move.
Cameron Devlin sent Gary Hooper tearing away down the right, and the Englishman's cutback was expertly tucked away by compatriot Ball for his fourth goal of the campaign.
Marinovic stood tall to keep out Adrian Luna's free kick as City ramped up the pressure in search of an equaliser, however Phoenix held on to claim their third clean sheet of the campaign.
Wellington Phoenix v Western United FC
Friday, 21 February
Kick-off: 7.15pm local, 5.15pm AEDT
Melbourne City have the bye