It was silver lining time when the Welling Phoenix showed signs of improvement in a narrow, 3 – 2 loss to Sydney Football Club on Sunday night.
They were in the game and in good form throughout, playing a Sydney side that has not lost at Allianz Stadium a year and a half.
If it were not for a brief, 10-minute space in the first half, it could objectively be said that the Phoenix matched Sydney quite well.
Playing the defending A-League champions does tend to bring out the best in any side. Much can be said about any NRL team that plays the Storm next season or any AFL team that goes against the Richmond Tigers.
It is one of those sports clichés that transcends history and location and code.
The Phoenix kept the Sydney keeper busy all night. They had nine shots, six of which had the chance of finding the back. By comparison, when Sydney played the Melbourne Victory in the first week of the 2017 A-League competition, they never threatened the net on one single occasion.
There was some good teamwork on the part of the Phoenix, who has a trio of All Whites on the starting side. Michael McGlinchey, Tom Doyle and Andrew Durante looked good together. Doyle got the nod at centre, as Marco Rossi’s groin injury prevented him from taking his usual role.
About the only criticism that could be levied is that the Phoenix looked weak at the back, but Andrija and Roy Krishna both had testers on Sydney goalkeeper Andrew Redmayne within the first two minutes of the game.
At the half, it looked like the Phoenix had the upper hand, with seven shots to Sydney’s three, even though Sydney’s chances were better quality.
They were in control, trying to even the score, when an official made a monumental mistake by calling an offside on the Phoenix that replays showed was not even close.
A good showing against the champions is the sort of thing on which good seasons are founded.