Phoenix stun Hammers in NZ

Wellington Phoenix have upstaged English Premier club West Ham, holding on for a well-deserved 2-1 win at a windy Eden Park on Wednesday night.

In a fiery pre-season clash as part of the Football United Tour, the Phoenix surged out of the blocks in the first 30 minutes, racing to a 2-0 lead thanks to goals from skipper Andrew Durante and new signing Alejandro Gorrin.

The visitors improved after the break and set-up a thrilling finish when New Argentine signing Mauro Zarate pulled one back on 71 minutes but despite a nervy finish the Phoenix prevailed.

Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick gave off-season recruits Nathan Burns and Gorrin debuts and the pair were both involved as the home side went in front on 10 minutes.

After Burns was hauled down just outside the box, Gorrin swing in the free-kick which was clinically headed in at the near post by Durante.

Buoyed by their strong start, the Nix made it 2-0 just 16 minutes later when Gorrin did it all himself, producing a fine run before slotting home past a stranded Jussi Jaaskelainen.

The shell-shocked Hammers did have their moments, most falling to striker Carlton Cole, who wasted two good goal-scoring chances with his head in the first half.

Both coaches rang the changes after the break leading to a disjointed second half but the visitors set up a tense finish when they pulled one back 19 minutes from full-time.

Zarate showed he could have a big impact in the EPL when he danced around one defender before blasting a powerful shot into the roof of the Glen Moss’ net.

The Premier League outfit finished the stronger but Zarate and Kiwi international Winston Reid both wasted good chances late on, while substitute Phoenix ‘keeper Lewis Italiano produced a superb sprawling save in stoppage time to deny Stewart Downing.

The England international looked set to equalize when he cut back inside onto his left-foot and unleashed a curling shot which Italiano tipped around the post to allow the home side to hold on for a memorable win.

Phoenix takes on Newcastle United in Wellington on Saturday in the final match of the tour, following Sydney FC’s clash with the Hammers.

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