The NRMA Insurance Wanderers have been defeated 3-1 by Wellington Phoenix in an eventful pre-season hit-out.In what was an action-packed opening scuffle, the Wanderers almost landed the first blow when Jaushua Sotirio’s shot skipped past the bottom corner of the Wellington goal.
But the Phoenix drew first blood soon after through Roly Bonevacia whose rasping drive from 25-yards left Dean Bouzanis with no chance.
Bonevacia’s screamer might have served as a wake-up call for Tony Popovic’s side but they found themselves 2-0 down just moments later.
It was Bonevacia again with another spectacular strike, this time dispatching Kwabenah Appiah’s cutback to double the Phoenix’s lead.
The Wanderers battled in search for a response with the dangerous Sotirio enjoying several bursts down the left hand side.
Dimas tried and failed to replicate Bonevacia’s effort from outside the area before Alberto’s goal-bound header was cleared off the line by Andrew Durante.
Half-time saw a host of defensive substitutions with Dean Bouzanis, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, Scott Neville and Scott Jamieson replaced by Andrew Redmayne, Jonathan Aspro, Jacob Pepper and trialist David D’Apuzzo respectively.
The raft of changes instilled some much needed cohesion with Sotirio, Nichols and Piovacarri all linking up more effectively in the final third.
Alberto almost turned a loose ball home from a corner before Josh MacDonald’s cross-cum-shot was nearly parried into the path of Piovacarri.
The impetus was now well and truly with the home side and they almost made the momentum count midway through the second half.
A bizarre passage of play saw Sotirio fouled outside the area and both Phoenix centre-halves booked. The resulting free kick was handled in the area presenting Federico Piovacarri the chance to score on his Wanderland debut.
It was a moment to forget for the Italian marquee; his weak penalty guided straight down the centre and easily deflected to safety by Lewis Italiano.
The introduction of both Romeo Castelen and Brendon Santalab furthered the Wanderers momentum and it was the Dutchman who proved pivotal in finally opening the Wanderers account.
A quick counter attack saw Castelen drive through the Phoenix midfield and tee up Mitch Nichols who found the roof of the net with strong finish.
It was a deserved goal for the Wanderers but the good work was undone shortly after when a costly defensive lapse from Aspro gave Blake Powell an easy chance to put Wellington 3-1 up, and consigned the Wanderers to defeat.