Question about Phoenix’s penalty hero prompts telling answer: ‘I wouldn’t begrudge a kid if he got it’

Catch the highlights as Macarthur FC took on Wellington Phoenix in the Isuzu UTE A-League.

Wellington Phoenix head coach Giancarlo Italiano said he would not stand in Alex Paulsen’s way should he get an opportunity to take the next step in his career.

Paulsen has emerged as a breakout star in the Isuzu UTE A-League this season thanks to his penalty-saving heroics for the league-leading Phoenix.

The 21-year-old saved his third spot-kick of the season in Wellington’s 3-0 victory over previously unbeaten Macarthur FC on Monday night.

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In his post-match press conference, Italiano was asked whether he was concerned that an offer could come in for Paulsen next month that the Phoenix could simply not turn down and he had some advice for the exciting New Zealander.

“That’s a good question. I don’t want to lose AP. I think he’s done well,” he told reporters post-match.

“I think it would be a little bit premature if he goes to be fair. I think he still needs a bit of time in this league to prove himself.

“After three months, maybe a little bit… I mean I wouldn’t begrudge a kid if he got it. All my players, I want them to get to the highest level they can.

“But in saying that, if AP goes, I’m quietly confident that Dunks (Jack Duncan) will do just as capable job.

“Lets see what the future holds.”

Wellington’s victory over Macarthur in Campbelltown was the perfect response after a forgettable Round 7.

The Phoenix were stunned 3-0 by the Jets at home, but they returned to winning ways despite the absence of talisman Oskar Zawada.

Bozhidar Kraev opened the scoring in the first half with the 600th Isuzu UTE A-League goal in the Phoenix’s history, before Kosta Barbarouses put the visitors out of sight with two goals in the space of three second-half minutes.

Wellington are now a point clear of Melbourne Victory atop the standings through eight matches.

“Speaking quite honestly, I look week by week and I know it’s cliche and coaches use it but we got written off at the beginning of the season,” Italiano said when asked if Wellington showed they are one of the team’s to beat in 2023-24.

“My goal at the beginning of the season was to make us competitive. I’m process driven and that’s also very cliche but everything we do at training, there’s always an emphasis – we work to a certain game plan.

“I check off our performance along those lines. Whether we win or lose, I can’t control that.

“Now we’re in a position where we’re first. If we start talking about being first, it becomes a mindset that for me brings a different complexity which I think is a distraction.

“I don’t want to even entertain it. We win, we win well no problem. It’s this week but for me what’s important is next week and then the week after. Then when we get to the end, maybe we can start talking about it.”