With two-time club Golden Boot winner Adam Le Fondre going to India, and returning Brazilian Bobo still at least a fortnight away, there were some questions about how the Sky Blues would fare in attack to start the season.
Debutant Nieuwenhof answered definitively after 29 minutes. The 19-year-old midfielder, earmarked as one to watch after an assured first hit-out for the Sky Blues in their Asian Champions League match against Shanghai in November, capitalised beautifully on some space well outside the 18-yard box.
His blistering right-foot snap on the diagonal gave Wellington 'keeper Stefan Marinovic little chance and the two-time defending champions found themselves up 1-0.
The Sky Blues had the run of play for much of the half but the Phoenix had their moments -- and made one count during time added on. With seemingly little on, Muratovic claimed possession in the middle of the box and volleyed sweetly into the bottom left corner to level things up before the break.
Easing into the second half, Sydney again showed their class in midfield as Brattan set up nicely for a free kick in the 55th minute. Crunching the ball from distance, Marinovic failed to pick up the fade and the visitors found themselves back in front.
From there the only thing to fade was the Sky Blues. With the opposition visibly tiring, the Phoenix were unlucky not to claim an equaliser in the final 20 minutes.
Cameron Devlin sprayed over the crossbar in the 75th minute, 'keeper Andrew Redmayne peeled off a lovely save from Tomer Hemed 14 minutes later and Brattan cleaned up a Ulises Davila effort as the clock wound down.
Davila's 94th minute shot then found the net from a Hemed deflection but the Israeli substitute was ruled offside to ensure Steve Corica's men claimed all three points.