Wellington’s ALM table surge hit by Zawada blow

George Clarke |

Phoenix forward Oskar Zawada could be sidelined for the next four weeks due to a groin injury.
Phoenix forward Oskar Zawada could be sidelined for the next four weeks due to a groin injury.

Wellington coach Giancarlo Italiano is challenging his squad to step up to the mark as their plans to open up a gap at the top of the A-League Men table have been hit by an injury to Oskar Zawada.

The Phoenix host the second-placed Central Coast on Tuesday evening where a win could move them five points clear.

But defeating the Mariners, who are on a run of 11 ALM games without defeat, will be made all the more challenging without Zawada.

The Polish striker, who has netted five goals in eight games this season, is set to be sidelined for up to four weeks with a recurrence of a groin issue.

Oskar Zawada.
Oskar Zawada celebrates after scoring one of his three goals in Wellington’s win over Brisbane. (Masanori Udagawa/AAP PHOTOS)

“This is not the first time something like this has happened,” Italiano said.

“He’s a big player for us but the rest of the squad will pick up the shortfall – they’ve done it before, and they’ll do it again.

“It’s an unfortunate set of circumstances (but) he’s the ultimate pro.

“He looks after his body like no one else and I just think it’s just more bad luck than anything.”

Zawada’s blow means Italiano is going to have to juggle his squad with Sam Sutton injured and Nicholas Pennington out with suspension.

Central Coast’s red-hot form has been spearheaded by winger Angel Torres, who has nine goals in his last eight games.

Angel Torres.
Mariners forward Angel Torres is joint-third on the scorers list, having netted against the Roar. (Dave Hunt/AAP PHOTOS)

But Italiano said he was reluctant to make changes to Wellington’s tactical plans just to eliminate the Colombian’s danger.

“As much as we want to respect them and alleviate the threat, we’re still at home so we’ll take the initiative,” Italiano said. 

“We have plans to curb their threats and I feel like we can still stick to what we believe in.”

Meanwhile, Italiano said mid-season recruit Youstin Salas was expected to land in New Zealand this week.

The Costa Rican midfielder had received a visa and would arrive in time to feature in the Phoenix’s away game against Macarthur FC on February 18.