6 Dec 2015

Phoenix prevail on "green sand"

5:40 pm on 6 December 2015

The Wellington Phoenix have beaten the Melbourne Victory 2-0 in their A-League football match on a terrible surface at Auckland's North Harbour Stadium.

See how the game unfolded here

Both goals came in the first half, with forward Roy Krishna scoring the first and having a key role in the second.

The Fiji striker finished from an acute angle in the 18th minute, when a poor penultimate touch seemed to make the opportunity too difficult before Krishna somehow struck it past the Victory keeper Danny Vukovic on the post and into the middle of the goal, where a despairing Melbourne defender couldn't clear it off the line.

Then Krishna made the second goal for Phoenix midfielder-turned-wing Roly Bonevacia just before half-time with a sublime run from before the halfway line that ended in a goalmouth scramble which Bonevacia toe-poked home.

The Victory had a second-half goal disallowed for offside and the Phoenix held on for the clean sheet.

However, there was plenty of controversy about the pitch, which clearly had large swathes of exposed dirt on it that had been painted green.

Thursday night's ASB Premiership game scheduled for the Albany stadium was moved to Mt Smart - whether to protect what little grass was on North Harbour, or because it was sub-standard, isn't clear.

But there was no doubt about the opinion of Melbourne coach Kevin Muscat about the condition of the surface after the game.

Muscat blamed the pitch for the low passing rate of the two teams, which he said was "definitely the worst of any A-League game this season."

Muscat said the pitch was "sub-standard for elite football... having said that, from a football perspective now, we weren't good enough in the first half. We didn't come to grips with the conditions."

"And that first goal was vital under those conditions, because it was very hard to play football, because I'd say about 90 percent of the game's played on the grass, and there wasn't any grass today.

"There was some green sand."

Unsurprisingly, Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick didn't mind the pitch, though he did note it was the first time North Harbour's had anything other than a lush grass covering on it.

"The pitch was fine, the ball rolled fairly well, it wasn't bumpy really," Merrick said. "There wasn't enough grass on it, but it was fine. You have to adapt to different situations. It's okay."

A crowd of 10,852 watched the game - the lowest total number of fans to attend a Phoenix game in Auckland, which may not help the Wellington club's push to impress Football Federation Australia and gain a new licence.

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