Full stadium would give Phoenix ‘the extra half goal we need’

Phoenix coach Giancarlo Italiano.

Giancarlo Italiano, coach of the Wellington Phoenix.
Photo: Masanori Udagawa/Fotosport

Wellington Phoenix coach Giancarlo Italiano says they go into the second leg of their A-League semi-final with “destiny in our own hands” after his team’s strong defensive effort last night.

Wellington Phoenix drew 0-0 with Melbourne Victory in the first leg of their A-League semi-final in Melbourne.

Melbourne dominated possession and territory, but Phoenix’s defense, as it has been all season, was well organized and stayed structured.

The two teams head to Wellington on Saturday for the second leg of the tie, with the winner advancing to the A-League football final.

Italiano said that his team played positively in the first half hour and had very important moments.

“I think we could have capitalized. I think once victory was established, they started to take advantage and we defended pretty well for a lot of the game,” Italiano said.

Melbourne Victory took 19 shots on goal, five of them on target, compared to Wellington Phoenix’s six, none of which were recorded as on target, but Italiano never panicked.

“My measure of how effective teams are is their big chances, and big chances for me are chances developed behind the defensive line… if they can get behind your defense, you’re in trouble.

“I think once they were shooting, you know, from 25 yards, 30 yards, it was more of a set piece opportunity or a little deflection, or some kind of mistake that would have given them a goal.”

Phoenix captain Alex Rufer reacts after the final whistle.

Phoenix captain Alex Rufer reacts after the final whistle.
Photo: Photossport

Could your team have played with more creativity?

“Victory has one of the strongest teams in the league and they couldn’t beat us because of the amount of creative players they had, I think we had the best chances.

“I think what we lacked was more consistency during the 90 minutes. I can always hope to have more creativity, but it’s the context of the game. I don’t think there are many semi-finals where there is a celebration of goals. I think everything “It comes down to one or two big moments in a game and teams take advantage of it, so I’m really happy with the way the team performed.”

Italiano told RNZ he would take a slightly different tack in the build-up to the second leg.

“It’s going to be smaller in terms of the physical part. It’s going to be more video-driven content and just a simple tactics board. And we’re just going to explain what our messaging is and what’s important.

“It will be a normal week, but again, it’s not about loading the players at this stage, they’ve run enough all season, I think they’re fit enough, it’s more about mental acuity.”

Italiano said the dynamic was different for a home game.

Phoenix striker Bozhidar Kraev is fouled by Melbourne Victory's Jordi Valadon in the A-League semi-final first leg at AMMI Park, Melbourne.

Phoenix striker Bozhidar Kraev is fouled by Melbourne Victory’s Jordi Valadon in the A-League semi-final first leg at AMMI Park, Melbourne.
Photo: Photossport

“The visiting team has to keep in mind that they are not used to that type of travel. They also played an extra game in the last two weeks, so we should be fresher. Every game we have played at home, we are quite advanced and “This game will be no different.”

Momentum is building for Saturday’s semi-final, with almost 19,000 tickets sold so far for Wellington’s Sky Stadium.

“I hope we can get over at least 25,000. The optimist in me would like to see a full stadium with 34,000 spectators; it can happen. I think this will be a game to celebrate our achievement… no matter what. , but now You know, it will be for the fans.”

He said the impact of a full house cannot be underestimated.

“I think that would be the extra half goal we need. Support at home is always underestimated (but) it’s always a big advantage.

“The Victory had the crowd on their side and they were making extra runs, taking the lead. If we can get close to that, even a provincial crowd where they just talk, that will get us over the line, I think.”