Kraev and Barbarouses star as Nix go top, hand Bulls first loss

Kosta Barbarouses has helped Wellington Phoenix go top of the A-League Men, scoring two goals in their 3-0 win over Macarthur.

Barbarouses grabbed two goals in the space of three minutes at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Monday night after Bozhidar Kraev had put the Kiwi outfit ahead in the first half.

The win continues an unlikely rise for the Phoenix under first-year coach Giancarlo Italiano, who has lost just one game through the opening eight rounds.

Wellington’s methodical victory brought an end to Macarthur’s unbeaten start to the season with Mile Sterjovski’s side frustrated by an away side who sat in a low block and swarmed the Bulls whenever they advanced up field.

Wellington relied on the counter to put pressure back on the Bulls with Kraev and Nic Pennington both going close to putting the Kiwi outfit ahead. 

Macarthur captain Ulises Davila had two half chances late in the first half but soon after, Wellington broke forward and had their opener through Kraev.

Barbarouses surged down the left before slipping in Ben Old, whose low cross was turned in by the Bulgarian in the 40th minute, allowing the ‘Nix to take a 1-0 lead in at halftime.

(Photo by Matt King/Getty Images)

Macarthur were becoming increasingly frustrated with Wellington’s deep-sitting defence and as they surged forward they left themselves exposed to another Phoenix counter in the 58th minute.  

This time Kraev was played in down the right and as he shook off a challenge from Tomislav Uskok he found Barbarouses at the back post with the experienced New Zealand international tucking in. 

No sooner had Sterjovski made changes to claw his team back into the game then Wellington added a third, Barbarouses turning in a Tim Payne delivery with an hour left to play. 

Macarthur were awarded a penalty when Valere Germain was brought down in the box but goalkeeper Alex Paulsen guessed the right way and parried Davila’s spot-kick away.

Even with Sterjovski throwing caution to the wind the ‘Nix were able to stand firm and claim their fourth cleansheet of the season.  

Wellington face Western Sydney Wanderers at home on Saturday while Macarthur, who now sit in fourth place, are away to Perth Glory. 

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