Wellington Phoenix have a tough call to make after Oli Sail’s latest mistake

ANALYSIS: Wellington Phoenix manager Ufuk Talay has to make a difficult decision over his starting goalkeeper after Oli Sail produced a roar in Friday’s shocking 5-1 loss to high-flying Adelaide United.

Sail were at fault for the first goal and could have done better on the second than a ruthless 10-game unbeaten Adelaide team whom Phoenix punished for their erratic performance at Coopers Stadium and handed them their biggest loss of the season.

Sail is widely regarded as one of the A-League men’s best shotstoppers, but he’s had a season of ups and downs for the Phoenix.

One week he’ll make a stunning save to win the game, the next he’ll concede an easy goal. In addition, moments of indiscipline have crept into his game.

But despite his irregular form, Talay has remained loyal to the All Whites No. 1, who was the club’s standout player last season, although Sail has announced he will leave at the end of the season to join A-League rivals to join Perth Glory.

Talay hasn’t historically been afraid to make big selection decisions, even in goal.

Captain Alex Rufer was drawn at half-time and dropped for a number of games last season.

Even Sail, the club’s longtime deputy, got his chance in the starting XI after Stefan Marinovic was demoted three years ago after a string of poor results rather than glaring errors.

If Talay had been willing to devote his own future to the phoenix beyond this season, he might have been more ruthless and swung the ax on that occasion as well.

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The Phoenix have highly rated 20-year-old Alex Paulsen to turn to, which would give the club a chance to gauge their starting potential for next season.

Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper Oli Sail throws up his hands in disgust after conceding an own goal.

Sarah Reed/Getty Images

Wellington Phoenix goalkeeper Oli Sail throws up his hands in disgust after conceding an own goal.

But with they still firmly in the hunt for the playoffs and fifth on 31 points, six points clear of seventh, now may not be the time for long-term thinking, and Sail’s leadership and ability to make big saves could be crucial the home track.

Paulsen made three saves on penalties in last season’s remarkable Australia Cup win over Melbourne City, but he didn’t see a single minute in the 2022/23 season – in either the league or the cup.

But calls for Paulsen to try it only got louder after Friday’s horror show.

Adelaide scored the first goal in the 16th minute after Scott Wootton attempted to chest the ball back to his keeper, only for it to slip through Sail’s hands.

Sail then flapped at Jay Barnett’s header seven minutes later and Luke Jovanovic scored on the rebound to double Adelaide’s lead.

The Phoenix won’t play again until April 1, so Talay and new goalkeeping coach Ruben Parker have a couple of weeks to solve their goalkeeping mystery before progressing to the finals.

The looming international window could even turn into a showdown between the two Phoenix goalkeepers when Sail and Paulsen are both set to take on host country China.

Sail was already named All Whites No. 1 by caretaker coach Darren Bazeley. 1, a strong indication that he will play both games, while Paulsen is expected to start in at least one of the U23 games, giving him a rare opportunity to prove his worth.


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