Thu. May 26th, 2022

Western United goalkeeper Jamie Young pulls off a vital save to keep out a Phoenix attempt.

Robert Cianflone ​​/ Getty Images

Western United goalkeeper Jamie Young pulls off a vital save to keep out a Phoenix attempt.

At AAMI Park, Melbourne: Western United 1 (Aleksandar Prijovic 10 ‘) Wellington Phoenix 0 HT: 1-0

Wellington Phoenix’s season is over after Western United goalkeeper Jamie Young pulled out all the stops to deny them a place in the A-League Men semifinals.

The Phoenix were unable to find a way past the veteran keeper after going behind early in the elimination final, with Western grinding out a tense 1-0 win – their first over the Phoenix since their first-ever meeting in 2019 – thanks to Young’s heroics in between the sticks.

Young produced a save of the season contender in the 71st minute when he showed amazing reflexes to keep out a strong header from substitute defender James McGarry.

McGarry looked destined to score and tie the game at 1-1 when he made good contact with a Tim Payne cross in from the right and directed the ball on target, away from the veteran Western shotstopper.

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But Young had other ideas, diving across to his right and hooking the ball away with one hand before it could cross the line.

“It was a good header from Jimmy and a great save from their goalkeeper,” Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay said.

“I think he pulled off some very good saves tonight and kept them 1-0 up.

“I think he helped them get the result at the end of the day.”

Western coach John Aloisi compared Young’s efforts to the legendary save made by England goalkeeper Gordon Banks that kept out Brazilian Pele’s header at the 1970 World Cup.

Western United celebrate after scoring an early goal through striker Aleksandar Prijovic.

Mike Owen / Getty Images

Western United celebrate after scoring an early goal through striker Aleksandar Prijovic.

“It was like a Gordon Banks save, wasn’t it?” Aloisi said.

“It did remind me of that. I was not alive, obviously, at the time but I’ve seen that save a lot of times, when Pele had that header and Banks saved it.

“It was an incredible save. He obviously has the reflexes there and to have that strong hand to put it around the post was impressive. ”

The Phoenix continued their record of losing every game when they have conceded the first goal this season with Aleksandar Prijovic’s 10th minute strike proving decisive.

The early goal came when Gael Sandoval showed no urgency to close down Ben Garrucio, giving the Western left-back time to deliver a dangerous ball towards Prijovic who was lurking at the back post.

Prijovic took a touch to control the ball before lacing it past a helpless Oli Sail from the right of the goal.

Talay felt it was a soft goal to concede.

“We did not put enough pressure on the ball carrier which at the end of the day can happen but we still had enough numbers in the box to deal with the delivery.

“But I do not think we cleared the ball well enough and it fell to them and it was a good finish.

“I was disappointed that we conceded early but we had a lot of time to get ourselves back in the game and we had plenty of opportunities to do that.”

The Phoenix made a promising start to the game with their best chance of the first half coming after six minutes when Reno Piscopo tried his luck from the edge of the box.

But Young did well to get down low to his right and put the ball out for a corner.

Phoenix midfielder Gael Sandoval on the ball.

Mike Owen / Getty Images

Phoenix midfielder Gael Sandoval on the ball.

Piscopo went close again from long-range early in the second half but his shot, which dipped at the last second, was denied by the woodwork.

The Phoenix had a couple more chances to draw level from set-pieces in the final five minutes but could not find the breakthrough they needed to take the game to extra-time.

They have now failed to make it past the first round of the playoffs in their last four attempts, two of which have come during Talay’s tenure.

Despite the disappointing result, Talay said he was still proud of the Phoenix for finishing inside the top six after spending most of the season away from New Zealand due to international travel restrictions.

“I’m very proud of the group,” he said. “The perseverance and the resilience they have shown to even get to this point and play finals football, on that side of things I can not complain, I’m just disappointed about the result.”

The big moment

Western made the perfect start when the ball fell kindly to Prijovic following a wonderful cross into the box from Garrucio and the big Serb made no mistake, thumping the ball into the roof of the net.

Where the game was won

The Phoenix have lost every game when they have conceded the first goal so they faced an uphill battle when Prijovic opened the scoring for Western from the right of the box after just 10 minutes.

Player of the day

Young did everything he could to stop the Phoenix from scoring including making a stunning save to deny McGarry midway through the second half.

The big picture

The Phoenix’s season should still be viewed as a success after overcoming so many obstacles to finish inside the top six and qualify for the finals series but this feels like an opportunity lost. The Phoenix had beaten Western three times this season but failed to do so when it mattered the most.

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