Zawada strike edges Wellington closer to ALM finals
Oskar Zawada scored the winner, but Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay has credited his partner for their 1-0 win over Sydney FC.
Zawada has been on baby-watch all week, with his wife - model Patrycja Wozniak - due to give birth to their first child this weekend and the striker insistent he would be by her side.
At the last minute, he opted to travel to Auckland for the Eden Park match, and proved the difference between the two finals-chasing sides.
In the 21st minute, Lucas Mauragis crossed to the lumbering number nine, who jumped over Socceroos left-back Joel King to head home.
"I thank his wife Patrycja for holding on for another day," Talay said after the win.
Zawada's importance to the team is hard to understate - this was his 12th goal of the campaign and his ninth in 10 games.
The win keeps Wellington fifth on the table and on track to play finals, with Talay hopeful Zawada's lucky streak with timing can continue.
"He wanted to be (in Auckland) and he's hoping that (she) has the baby early this week so he can be available for the Adelaide game," Talay said.
While Robert Mak struck the inside of the post early, Wellington deserved their half-time lead, and might have gone further ahead.
David Ball had a header cleared off the line and Yan Sasse fired a long shot which had Andrew Redmayne diving at full stretch.
However, the pendulum swung towards the visitors after the break as the Sky Blues bossed possession, territory and chances.
Tim Payne was lucky to avoid a penalty after stepping across Mak as he ran through the box.
For the second-straight week, Talay abandoned his forward-first tactics to throw on an extra centre back for an attacker, with Josh Laws replacing Yan Sasse.
It produced another win, with sixth-placed Sydney FC going the way of seventh-placed Newcastle last weekend.
Those results put the Nix on track to play finals. They are now seven points clear of seventh with six matches to play.
In hindsight, Sunday's outcome was statistically predictable.
Wellington have opened the scoring in 16 of their 20 matches - more than any other club - while Sydney FC have conceded more first-half goals than any other side, with 19.
And given Zawada's form, few can be surprised at his return.
The 27-year-old's strike is equal second in the golden boot race alongside Jason Cummings, six behind runaway leader, Jamie Maclaren.
The result gives Talay a second 1-0 win over his former employers this year, after a madcap win at Allianz Stadium in January in which Wellington finished with nine players and Adam Le Fondre - who was missing on Sunday - miss two late penalties.
It also lengthens Wellington's unbeaten run at their second home, Eden Park, to 10 matches.
Sydney captain Alex Wilkinson said he was still confident of playing finals with the Sky Blues sitting sixth.
"I thought we were on top for the whole game," he said.
"We lacked that quality in the front third to break them down ... we have to be better."