Semi-Final stalemate: Phoenix’s milestone achievement frustrates Victory despite ongoing ‘hoodoo’

Catch the highlights as Melbourne Victory hosted Wellington Phoenix in the first leg of the Semi Final in Isuzu UTE A-League 2023-24.

Wellington Phoenix’s AAMI Park streak goes on but their 100th Isuzu UTE A-League clean sheet frustrated Melbourne Victory as the first leg of their Semi-Final ended 0-0 on Sunday.

Victory could not breach Phoenix’s stubborn defence in Melbourne, where Wellington’s winless run at AAMI Park extended to 21 matches.

However, Giancarlo ‘Chiefy’ Italiano’s Phoenix will head back across the ditch for the return leg on level terms thanks to their milestone clean sheet – the club’s 12th of a record-breaking season in Wellington.

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The Phoenix, who ended the regular season 11 points ahead of third-placed Victory in second spot, did not register a shot in November’s 1-1 draw at AAMI Park but that was not the case this time around as they sat back and waited to pick off Victory on the counter-attack.

Wellington – who are four games unbeaten against the team from Melbourne this season (W1 D3) will host Victory in the second leg at Sky Stadium on Saturday, with the winner facing either Central Coast Mariners or Sydney FC.

The Phoenix entered the first-leg showdown aiming to end their AAMI Park hoodoo, having gone 20 matches without a win at the venue in Melbourne. Meanwhile, the last time Wellington defeated Victory at AAMI Park was back in April 2017. Chiefy labelled the streak a “hoodoo” heading into the game.

As for Victory, they were coming off an unforgettable penalty shoot-out win over rivals Melbourne City in their Elimination Final.

On Sunday evening after viral violinist Evangeline Victoria wowed the AAMI Park crowd once more, the Phoenix started brightly and managed to get in behind Victory’s defence inside four minutes – Nicholas Pennington slid a ball across the six-yard box but somehow the home side cleared the danger.

Wellington were well organised which has become the norm under Chiefy – who was stopped for photos by opposition fans pre-game, while Victory looked disjointed in the final third, though that changed as the half wore on.

Victory grew into the contest and dominated proceedings as the Phoenix tried to absorb the pressure and pick off the hosts on the counter-attack.

While Wellington lived dangerously, Victory did not really create any clear-cut chances aside from a couple of decent efforts via Salim Khelifi and Bruno Fornaroli.

It was more of the same in the second half, with the Phoenix holding firm, though they started the second period better than they ended the first 45 minutes.

The entire stadium came to its feet to help will Victory on approaching the hour-mark and it almost yielded a goal. However, Wellington were at their trademark best to keep the ball out of the back of the net.

For all of Victory’s territory and time in possession, they were limited to to a lot of long-range attempts.

Victory almost nicked a goal in the 88th minute after a threatening run from Chris Ikonomidis as the ball moved away from Paulsen