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Western United goalkeeper Jamie Young makes a vital save to deny a Phoenix attempt.
At AAMI Park, Melbourne: Western United 1 (Aleksandar Prijovic 10′) Wellington Phoenix 0 ME: 1-0
Wellington Phoenix’s season is over after Western United goalkeeper Jamie Young pulled out all the stops to deny them a place in the A-League Men’s semi-finals.
The Phoenix couldn’t find a way past the veteran keeper after falling behind early in the playoff final, with Western earning a tense 1-0 win – their first against the Phoenix since their very first meeting in 2019 – thanks to Young’s heroism. between the sticks.
Young pulled off a contender of the season save of the season in the 71st minute when he showed incredible reflexes to deny a solid header from substitute defender James McGarry.
McGarry looked destined to score and level the game at 1-1 when he made good contact with a Tim Payne cross from the right and headed the ball on target, away from the veteran Western shot-stopper.
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But Young had other ideas, diving to his right and hooking the ball with one hand before he could cross the line.
“It was a good header from Jimmy and a great save from their keeper,” Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay said.
“I think he made some really good saves tonight and held them 1-0 up.
“I think he helped them get the result at the end of the day.”
West coach John Aloisi has compared Young’s efforts to England keeper Gordon Banks’ legendary save which prevented Brazilian Pele’s header in the 1970 World Cup.
“It was like a Gordon Banks save, wasn’t it?” said Aloisi.
“It reminded me of that. I wasn’t alive, obviously, at the time, but I saw that save many times, when Pele had that header and Banks saved it.
“It was an amazing save. He obviously has the reflexes there and having that strong hand to put him around the post was impressive.
The Phoenix continued their losing streak in every game when they conceded the first goal this season with Aleksandar Prijovic’s 10th-minute strike that proved decisive.
The first goal came when Gael Sandoval showed no urgency to shut down Ben Garrucio, giving the western left-back time to fire a dangerous ball towards Prijovic who was hiding at the far post.
Prijovic took a touch to control the ball before flicking it past a helpless Oli Sail from the right of goal.
Talay felt it was an easy goal to concede.
“We didn’t put enough pressure on the ball carrier, which can happen down the line, but we still had enough numbers in the box to deal with the delivery.
“But I don’t think we cleared the ball well enough and it fell on them and that was a good finish.
“I was disappointed that we conceded early but we had plenty of time to get back into the game and we had plenty of chances to do so.”
The Phoenix got off to a promising start with their best chance of the first half after six minutes when Reno Piscopo tried his luck from the edge of the box.
But Young did well to drop low to his right and get the ball out for a corner.
Piscopo again came close from wide at the start of the second half but his shot, which dived at the last second, was denied by the woodwork.
The Phoenix had a few more chances to level the set pieces in the final five minutes but couldn’t find the breakthrough they needed to lead the game into overtime.
They have now failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs in their last four attempts, including two during Talay’s tenure.
Despite the disappointing result, Talay said he was still proud of the Phoenix for finishing in the top six after spending most of the season away from New Zealand due to international travel restrictions.
“I’m very proud of the group,” he said. “The perseverance and resilience they showed to get there and play football in the final, on that side I can’t complain, I’m just disappointed with the result.”
The big moment
Western got off to a perfect start when the ball fell nicely to Prijovic following a wonderful cross into the box from Garrucio and the tall Serbian made no mistake, sending the ball into the roof of the net.
Where the game was won
The Phoenix lost every game after conceding the first goal. So they faced an uphill battle when Prijovic opened the scoring for Western from the right of the box after just 10 minutes.
player of the day
Young did everything he could to keep the Phoenix from scoring, including pulling off a superb save to deny McGarry midway through the second half.
The big picture
Phoenix’s season should still be considered a success after overcoming so many obstacles to finish in the top six and qualify for the series finale, but it feels like a lost opportunity. The Phoenix had beaten Western three times this season, but didn’t do it when it mattered most.