In what was one of the best performances in recent memory from the Phoenix, they won 3-1 at Jubilee Stadium in Sydney on Saturday night.
Roy Krishna scored a first-half brace, before Steven Taylor added another in an all-action first-half which could have seen the Phoenix up by even more.
They seemingly confused the Sydney defence with their high press in the first half, which enabled them to control possession (57 per cent) and force their hosts into long balls which the relatively small Adam Le Fondre had no hope of winning against the Phoenix back three.
Phoenix coach Mark Rudan had made just one, enforced, change to his starting XI which impressed in their 1-1 draw with league leaders Perth Glory last weekend, as Oliver Sail replaced the concussed Filip Kurto in goal. He would have little to do.
It was those same outfield players which impressed again, dominating, yes dominating, Sydney in what was their best half of football in a long time in the opening 45 minutes.
By the end of it, they led 3-0.
They had 10 shots (six on target) to Sydney’s four (two on target).
Wellington opened the scoring in the 21st minute when Sapreet Singh played one of the best through balls of the season, curling a 30-metre pass to send Krishna through on goal, who made no mistake with his finish low past Andrew Redmayne.
The Sydney defence was all at sea three minutes later as Nathan Burns surged into the box. Redmayne tried to pick the ball up at his defender Rhyan Grant’s feet, but fumbled and the ball almost fell to a sprawling Burns to turn into an empty net, but Redmayne recovered just in time.
Krishna had another shot saved in the 29th minute after the Phoenix’s press again caught a Sydney defender in possession deep in their own half.
Krishna did get his and his team’s second just one minute later. Again, the Phoenix won the ball in Sydney’s half. Mandi played a raking ball into Krishna, who beat a defender before firing through Redmayne, who got a touch on the ball but could not keep it out of his net.
Phoenix fans hit delirium in the 38th minute when Liberato Cacace played a beautiful cross onto the head of Steven Taylor for the English centre back to head in his first goal in Phoenix colours.
There was still a nervy moment just before halftime when a hoof long by Sydney beat the Phoenix defence. Oli Sail came to clear but only parried the ball to a Sydney attacker on the edge of the box, but Taylor got back to clear the shot off his line.
Up three goals at halftime, the second half for the Phoenix was about Rudan often talks about: mentality. He urged his side to be brave and not drop too deep when completing a halftime interview.
Sydney coach Steve Corica brought on Siem de Jong for Paolo Retre in an attempt to add more of an attacking threat.
But it was almost the Phoenix extending their lead 10 minutes into the second spell as Redmayne’s poor touch almost allowed Burns to steal in, but the Sydney FC shotstopper recovered just in time.
Krishna succumb to an apparent hamstring injury in the 59th minute, replaced by David Williams.
The Phoenix’s second-half attitude was personified by Taylor in the 65th minute when he let out a guttural roar after out-muscling two attackers in his own defensive corner.
They had lost some of their attacking flair from the first half, but replaced it with work-rate and stoic defending.
Sydney scored a comical consolation goal via Michael Zullo in the 89th minute. Phoenix defender Louis Fenton appeared to be fouled in the leadup to Le Fondre missing almost an open goal. The ball fell to Zullo and his deflected effort found the back of the net.
Referee Jonathan Barreiro seemed to lose his way in the aftermath. He then blew for fulltime just two minutes in to the four added minutes, only to restart the game again when realising his mistake.
The Phoenix held on through the bizarre conclusion, with the win took them into the top six for now, with two teams below them still to play.
The result and performance represented another big step forward in Rudan’s development with his team. On the basis of this game, they can challenge any team in the league, starting with last-placed Central Coast Mariners at home next Saturday.
AT A GLANCE
Wellington Phoenix 3 (Roy Krishna 21′ 30′, Steven Taylor 38′) Sydney FC 1 (Michael Zullo 89′). HT: 3-0