Phoenix rise to top as Zawada inspires ALM win v Jets

Joanna Guelas |

Back from injury and back among the goals: Oskar Zawada’s strike sent Wellington top of the ALM.
Back from injury and back among the goals: Oskar Zawada’s strike sent Wellington top of the ALM.

Star striker Oskar Zawada has steered Wellington Phoenix to the top of the A-League Men with a goal on his return from injury in a 2-1 win over the Newcastle Jets.

With scores level deep into the second half, the former Poland youth international announced his return to the park in style, netting a dramatic winner for the high-flying Phoenix in the 87th minute.

Zawada had been missing since December, having being sidelined for seven weeks with a thigh injury.

“It’s amazing to come back and have such an impact,” Zawada said after the match.

“I don’t feel 100 per cent but I will get better. The most important thing is, when I get a chance I will score.”

Phoenix drew first blood at the Jets’ McDonald Jones Stadium on Saturday, after a poor foul by Mark Natta gifted the visitors an early penalty which Alex Rufer calmly converted.

Newcastle goalkeeper Ryan Scott kept his side in the game as Wellington poured forward looking for a second, denying substitute Ben Old and Nicholas Pennington within seconds.

Trent Buhagiar entered the fray in the 67th minute and scored 13 minutes later to draw the hosts level.

But the Phoenix were unwilling to share the points, and Zawada stalled the Jets’ engines seven minutes later to send his side two points clear of Melbourne Victory at the top.Β 

Despite his disappointment, Newcastle coach Rob Stanton said he was pleased with his side’s performance, which came hot on the heels of hosting Brisbane Roar on Tuesday.

“On a four day turnaround, the effort was there,” Stanton said.

“We were a little bit slow out of the blocks, just heavy legs and fatigued minds from the short turnarounds that we’ve had to endure in the last couple weeks.

“But after that, we did really well. We got ourselves into positions where we could try and build pressure and sustain pressure.

“We had to break down a team that sat deep and wanted to counter. We had to solve that problem and we did that in the second half.

“Once you score, you can be vulnerable if you don’t control the next five or 10 minutes.

“We gave up another goal, which is very unfortunate, but I’m very proud of the players.”