Phoenix beat Jets to boost A-League finals bid

Oskar Zawada has fired his 11th goal of the A-League Men season as Wellington beat Newcastle 2-1, firming up the Phoenix's bid for a home final.

After Callan Elliot's opener, the Polish striking sensation won the contest with a first-half penalty at Wellington's Sky Stadium on Saturday, his eighth goal in nine games.

Manabu Saito's reply made the second half a tense battle, but the Phoenix stood strong to claim three points.

The win puts Wellington four points clear inside the top six with seven to play as they chase the club's first home final in a decade.

"We're pushing as high as we can go," coach Ufuk Talay said.

"In my first season, where we finished third, we didn't get the opportunity to play a final here (due to COVID-19) so it'd be fantastic to have that opportunity this season."

After a leisurely opening half-hour, the Phoenix missed a pair of chances to go ahead, with Yan Sasse striking the post and Bozhidar Kraev botching his touch rather than volleying into an open goal on the rebound.

The breakthrough arrived on 39 minutes, when Elliot volleyed home a loose ball in the box.

Jack Duncan dropped Yan Sasse's cross under heavy pressure from Kraev, allowing the right-back to score his first A-League goal to put the Phoenix ahead.

Elliot's goal was the 15th time in 19 A-League games Wellington had opened the scoring, and ensured they maintained their record as the only team to find the net in every match this season.

In first-half stoppage time, Wellington benefited from another slice of luck, awarded a contentious penalty after a VAR review.

At extremely close range, Zawada's header clattered into Angus Thurgate's raised hand, allowing the Pole to fire home from the spot.

Two-up at the break, the Nix retreated to hold onto their lead rather than try to extend it.

The result was sustained pressure from the Jets, with Saito particularly impressive down the left flank.

The Japanese veteran, on his first start after a mid-season transfer, finished a 16-pass move by chipping Oli Sail to get Newcastle back in the contest.

Enjoying their best spell of the match, Saito had other chances and Kostandinos Grozos drew a fine save from Sail as the Jets chased a point.

With 15 minutes left, a heavily-deflected free kick trickled centimetres wide of the Phoenix goal with Sail stranded - a sign it would be Wellington's day.

Jets coach Arthur Papas said there was "nothing to see" in the handball and he was frustrated to create so many second-half chances without reward.

"We had a terrific response. We played some great football in the second half, scored a great goal and should have scored more," he said.

Papas called the result "a missed opportunity" but insisted his side - who ended the match in seventh place - are good enough to play finals.