‘Delirium’ in Wellington as 95th-minute winner confirms ‘scarcely believable’ reality for ‘Nix

Watch the incredible moment a 95th-minute winner sealed Wellington's first-ever Isuzu UTE A-League top-two finish

Wellington Phoenix are guaranteed a top-two finish in the Isuzu UTE A-League for the first time in club history, after a 95th-minute winner sealed a 1-0 win over Melbourne Victory which sent the New Zealand outfit back to the top of the table.

A late free-kick for the ‘Nix came off the head of Phoenix defender Finn Surman and took a touch off Victory’s Roderick Miranda on the way into the back of the net as Sky Stadium erupted; the dramatic winner confirmed Wellington will finish the season in the top two, and a direct route to the Semi-Finals.

Sky Sports commentator Jason Pine narrated the pulsating finish to perfection as the final whistle blew to confirm the Phoenix as winners and sparked amazing scenes of celebration both on the Sky Stadium turf and in the stands.

“Do not write Wellington off. For the first time in their history, the Phoenix will finish the season in the A-League Men’s top two,” Pine said.

“They take all three points, look West across the Tasman Sea and say to the Mariners: ‘It is your move’.

“Wellington are in uncharted territory now. They secure their place in the A-League Men’s top two – this is the team that no one at the start of the season had anywhere other than the bottom two. And yet, under the stewardship of Giancarlo Italiano, they have scaled heights that are scarcely believable!”

Besides yellow cards to Tim Payne and Fabian Monge, the bulk of the first half ticked by without incident before Kosta Barbarouses and Ben Old combined to create the first genuine chance of the game.

Barbarouses got in behind Victory’s defensive line and found Old in space by the penalty spot but the young Phoenix midfielder got his feet in a tangle as his first-time effort faded wide of the target.

Phoenix keeper Alex Paulsen had his first test of the game soon after when Ben Folami lashed a left-footed strike towards the top-left corner. Paulsen leapt to his right but fortunately for the hosts did not need to make a save as the ball whipped off the side netting and out.

Adama Traore had scored just four goals in 223 Isuzu UTE A-League games heading into Round 24 and the Victory full-back almost added to his tally early in the second half.

Played down the left side of the penalty area by Bruno Fornaroli, Traore took aim at the bottom-right corner and only narrowly missed the target with a powerful effort.

With 15 minutes to play, Bozidhar Kraev nicked the outside of the post with a curling effort from distance as the ‘Nix looked to break the deadlock.

Fornaroli had a chance to put Victory into the lead. Having cut past Finn Surman onto his favoured right foot, he called Paulsen into a save down low to his left.

Victory substitutes Chris Ikonomidis and Eli Adams combined to create a late chance for Victory to pinch three points but Adams couldn’t convert Ikonomidis’ floated delivery off the left wing to the back post. Sam Sutton provided pressure on Adams who volleyed wide from inside the six-yard box.

Then came the all-important winner; Surman thought he’d scored his first A-Leagues goal as he leapt to meet a stoppage-time free-kick swung toward the six-yard box but the final touch came off Victory defender Miranda as Phoenix players came from far and wide to celebrate the goal that confirmed a top-two finish and kept Giancarlo Italiano’s side well in the fight for the Premiers Plate.

“Delirium in the Capital!” Exclaimed Sky Sports co-commentator Jacob Spoonley as the Phoenix players flocked to celebrate their historic win in front of the club’s faithful fans.