Brilliant Barbarouses equals Phoenix record in Distance Derby classic

Check out all the highlights from this thrilling clash between Perth Glory and Wellington Phoenix in Unite Round

Wellington Phoenix returned to the top of the Isuzu UTE A-League ladder after defeating Perth Glory 4-3 in a wet and wild classic at CommBank Stadium on Sunday.

Perth opened the scoring in the seventh minute thanks to a brilliant header from Adam Taggart but they were soon pegged back as Kosta Barbarouses continued his hot-streak in front of goal.

Barbarouses made it five straight games with a goal – joining Oskar Zawada and Tomer Hemed as the only Phoenix players to achieve the feat.

Alex Rufer then fired the Phoenix in front on the stroke of half-time before defender Aleksandar Susnjar scored one of the goals of the season to put Glory back on level terms.

But in a wild Unite Round contest, Wellington then re-took the lead through Tim Payne but his goal was soon cancelled out by another excellent solo effort, this time from Glory substitute Jarrod Carluccio.

However it would be the New Zealanders who would go home happier as Barbarouses struck the killer blow, stabbing home what would prove to be the winner in the 73rd minute to send Wellington back to the summit.

With both sides intent on attacking from the off. It was Perth who took the lead in the seventh minute courtesy of Taggart’s brilliant header.

Daniel Bennie’s initial cross wasn’t dealt with properly by the Wellington defence allowing Salim Khelifi to then pick up the loose ball and deliver a perfect cross onto the head of Taggart, whose powerful header flew into the top corner.

Intent on adding to their early lead, Glory midfielder Mustafa Amini then sent a low drive towards goal but his effort was comfortably saved by Phoenix keeper Alex Paulsen.

But as the rain began to increase at CommBank Stadium so too did the Wellington pressure and they eventually got their reward in the 29th minute having previously threatened with several dangerous balls across the box.

Spotting Barbarouses’ run off the shoulder of Susnjar, David Ball sent a perfect pass into the path of the New Zealand international who then cut inside onto his left foot before drilling a low shot beyond Cook at his near post.

Rufer and Pennington then exchanged a series of quick passes before sending Sutton clear down the left and while Barbarouses was unable to glance his header towards goal, Wellington would soon take the lead.

Capitalising on some sloppy Perth play in midfield the ball soon ended up at the feet of Bozhidar Kraev and while the Bulgarian’s claims for a penalty were waved away Pennington acted quickest, feeding the ball back to an unmarked Rufer who drilled home his side’s second to give them a deserved lead at the break.

Despite being behind at the break and comprehensively outplayed at times the Glory came out swinging in the rain and were back on level terms in the 50th minute care of an absolute rocket from Susnjar.

With nobody closing him down the big centre half was allowed to stride forward towards the edge of the box before unleashing an absolute rocket which flew past Paulsen and into the top corner to make it 2-2.

Not to be deterred by that set-back the Phoenix set about regaining the lead and it took them just eight minutes.

Once again Barbarouses was involved, this time driving towards the byline before cutting the ball back across the area and into the path of Payne, whose fearsome shot flew past Cameron Cook to make it 3-2.

Now stepping on the accelerator, Kraev almost then made it 4-2 to the ‘Nix but his shot from inside the box was well saved by Cameron Cook.

But just as Wellington looked as though they would extend their lead back came Perth and it was Carluccio who made it 3-3 with with his first involvement of the game.

Having just replaced John Koutroumbis, Carluccio found himself on the edge of the Wellington box and after he was picked out by fellow sub David Williams, he took two quick touches to avoid a challenge before drilling his shot high past Paulsen and into the roof of the net.

In keeping with the pattern of the game though Wellington then went straight back on the offensive and soon had their fourth of the match and once again it was Barbarouses who made the difference.

A brilliant pass by Rufer split the Perth defence and found the forward run of Payne, who’s inviting ball across the face of goal was prodded home by a leaping Barbarouses to make it 4-3 17 minutes from the end.

Glory came close to equalising in the 85th minute but forward Luke Ivanovic headed over the bar from close range at a corner and Wellington would hold on to move back to the top of the ladder.

What they said

Wellington Phoenix are back to winning ways in the Isuzu UTE A-League and while it was certainly a wild evening at CommBank Stadium, ‘Nix boss Giancarlo Italiano was pleased nonetheless.

“We changed our tactics today,” said Italiano in his post-match press conference. “It worked for the large part but the flip side is we conceded three goals.

“For me the big thing in this whole picture is the mentality. We conceded early, they got their heads up. We came back, we scored, we scored just before half-time, we conceded… but they kept working towards the game plan.

“Even at 3-3 I was like, we’re going to make a chance it’s just whether we capitalise when we break through. I can’t fault them for their mentality.”

Having beaten both Macarthur and Western Sydney before Christmas Italiano’s side then suffered something of a mini blip, losing to Sydney and then drawing away with Adelaide.

However ‘Chiefy’ says it’s his side’s ability to learn and react to setbacks which is arguably the most pleasing takeaway from recent weeks.

“Were we naive today in some of the things we did? Yes,” continued Italiano. “But we’re a young team still even though we have a mixed balance of older and senior players. It’s just a matter of finding that balance between the whole squad.

“Adelaide, for us, was an eye opener in terms of certain moments and I think we took that into this game today.”

Meanwhile Perth Glory Head Coach Alen Stajcic cut a dejected figure at full time, sat in the dugout no doubt contemplating just how his side battled their way back into the contest only to then find themselves on the losing side once more.

“You don’t have to be a Rhodes Scholar to see that our defensive lapses are costing us badly.

“You know, we’ve scored so many goals in the last three, four weeks and in fact all season and you can’t be conceding two, three, four every game. It’s just a given that you’re going to make it hard for yourself.

“We’ve actually been in the last few games that we’ve won or the ones that we’ve lost so you know we’ve been in every game. But until we improve that side of the game we’re going to be on the wrong end of the scoreboard every game.”

In fact, Glory are certainly up there when it comes to finding the back of the net, scoring 21 goals in 12 matches but it’s their defensive record that truly stands out as they possess the joint-worst defence in the league alongside bottom side Western United.

“It’s a collective, defending is a collective. There’s individual responsibility, there’s team shape, there’s collective spirit and unity and all those things and communication. Sadly they’re all lacking and we get punished for all our errors.”

The star

Once again, Kosta Barbarouses was the leading light for Wellington Phoenix.

The 33-year-old made it eight goals in his last five matches and once again his performance was absolutely something to savour here at CommBank Stadium.

If his first goal was all about technique and balance his second, the game’s crucial goal, was all about his movement. Cleverly positioning himself between the two centre backs, Barbarouses ensured he had a free run into the box and when the time came to get on the end of Payne’s cross he wasn’t going to miss given the confidence that’s now flowing through his veins.

Add to this another assist and it was quite simply another brilliant performance from the A-Leagues legend who continues to roll back the hands of time.

What it means

They may be level on points with Melbourne Victory but Wellington Phoenix return to the top of the ladder by virtue of having more wins than their rivals and their title credentials are sure to be tested when the two face off in January 19 at Sky Stadium.

As for Perth Glory it’s back to the drawing board for Alen Stajcic and Co after their third-straight loss leaves them in 11th place, just one point clear of bottom side Western United.

They’ll be hoping to avenge this loss at CommBank Stadium when they return here next week for an away clash against the Wanderers.