Manchester Phoenix 4 Guildford Flames 1

Manchester Phoenix opened up the EPL title race on Saturday with an emphatic 4-1 win over league leaders Guildford Flames.

The victory was the ninth win in a row for Phoenix, and it moved them into second place in the table, just four points behind Flames.

Manchester started the game strongly, and put Flames under early pressure, but Guildford showed their leading credentials, proving dangerous on the break and forcing Phoenix goalie Steve Fone into a string of saves.

Phoenix broke the deadlock when Ben Wood struck after nine minutes, and then doubled their lead through Ladislav Harabin, who smashed in a power play goal after 17 minutes.

There were no goals in the second period, but Phoenix came under immense pressure from Flames, having to kill a number of penalties. Phoenix man of the match Fone performed heroics, stopping 21 shots compared to the nine shots that Phoenix managed to have on Mark Lee in the Flames net.

Juraj Faith delivered a killer blow when he scored a third for Phoenix just 25 seconds into the third period, and the game was wrapped up nine minutes from time when Slava Koulikov bagged a fourth on the power play.

Flames continued to battle, however, a grabbed a consolation goal just under three minutes from the end through David savage.

Phoenix coach Tony Hand said: “This was a massive win for us, and the guys thoroughly deserved it.

“Everyone played their part in a superb performance. We created chances and we took them, and we kept our heads when we were under pressure, which we knew we would be against a team like Flames, which is full of quality and danger.

“No-one is making any assumptions here, but we are being taken very seriously at the top end of the table, and that’s a good feeling after the difficult first half of the season that we had.”