(Reuters) – Wellington Phoenix coach Giancarlo Italiano said “disrespectful” comments were fuelling his side’s charge to the summit of the A-League’s early season standings after their 1-0 win over Western United on Saturday.
The New Zealand-based outfit had been largely written off following the departure of previous coach Ufuk Talay and several key players, but Ben Old’s goal in Ballarat moved Italiano’s side into sole possession of the top spot.
“I always had belief in the group but I didn’t quite envisage that we’d be first,” said Italiano, who worked as Talay’s assistant prior to his promotion to the senior role.
“I felt after the first two friendlies that we had before the season that things were quite promising.
“(It was) probably an advantage for us that a lot of people wrote us off, which was a good thing for the team because that gave us fuel to push through this first couple of games.”
Talay led Wellington to sixth place in the regular season standings last year and a spot in the playoffs, where they lost to Adelaide United in the first round before the former midfielder stepped down to be replaced by Italiano.
The loss of Talay was followed by the departure of players such as goalkeeper Oli Sail and midfielder Steven Ugarkovic, and Italiano “felt as though it was disrespectful” when his side were written off ahead of the start of the season.
But four wins and two draws now see Wellington hold a two point lead over Western Sydney Wanderers six games into the new campaign.
Saturday’s win was secured when Old’s 79th minute goal was allowed following a lengthy VAR review after it had initially been ruled out for offside, leaving Italiano delighted.
“I’m just happy with the fact that we came away with three points,” he said.
“Every game in the A-League is always tough, so any away game, any three points … there’s a lot of gratitude. But I think we deserved it on the chances today.”
(Reporting by Michael Church, Editing by Christopher Cushing)
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Source: The Print