Barbarouses double as Nix go top with 3-0 Macarthur win

Kosta Barbarouses has powered Wellington Phoenix back to the top of the A-League Men table, spearheading a 3-0 thumping of 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.

The Phoenix boss has lost just one game through the opening eight rounds and is keen to not get carried away with their early-season form. 

"We got written off at the start of the year, but my goal was to make us competitive," Italiano said, ahead of Saturday's home clash against Western Sydney Wanderers. 

"I'm process-driven and I can check off our performance along those lines - whether we win or lose, I can't control that.

".. if we start talking about being first it brings a mindset which has a complexity, I don't like it.

"What's important for me is next week and the week after. When we get to the end of the season maybe we can start talking about it (being first)."

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.

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 half 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.  

"It was a disappointing result at home, but we came up against a very good Wellington team," Sterjovski said, with his side away to Perth on Saturday. 

"We just have to regroup now and look forward to next week.

"We have to give Wellington credit for how they played. We just didn't threaten enough and we were a little bit off tonight." 

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