Hyundai A-League Season 6

Herbert Takes Heart From
Ifill-Led Response To Critics
By Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

A-League - 2010/2011 Season - 'Week' 15
7pm, Wednesday 24 November, 2010
at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 2
(Paul Ifill 62’, 73')
Melbourne Heart FC 0

(Photo for BOTN by Nick Guoth - Matthew Thompson (6 MH) and Paul Ifil (WP 8))

A second half double-strike from Paul Ifill fired Wellington Phoenix to a 2-0 victory over Melbourne Heart at Westpac Stadium on 24 November, arresting a worrying form slump for the home team and extending to three the visitors’ current run of defeats.

It was a vital three-point haul for the Wellingtonians, whose coach, Ricki Herbert, was coming under increasing fourth estate-led pressure to right a record of one win in their last seven matches.

For any coach, the place to answer your critics isn’t during the pre- and post-match press conferences, those oft-stage-managed sound-bite sessions which are manna from heaven for media folk reliant on the quotes offered in same to allow them to satisfy their employers’ demands for opinion-led - rather than the far more substantial and informative facts-based - stories.

No, any coach worth his salt should do his talking on the pitch, conveying their message through their players‘ efforts. Herbert certainly did so on this occasion, not only via the three personnel changes he made, but the positional alterations he introduced, restoring Manny Muscat to his defensive midfield role while Ifill operated as a central striker, rather than out wide.

Granted, it wasn’t pretty to watch, but that wasn’t surprising, given the current form of both teams. Indeed, there was very little in the way of quality football on show in the first forty-five minutes in particular, with Melbourne guilty of stray passes aplenty, many of which were prompted by Wellington’s pressure.

In this regard, Ifill worked his socks off in attack, relentlessly running down visiting defenders as Melbourne looked to build from the back.

The first chance of the match saw Wellington’s Vince Lia firing a shot in anger, his twenty-five yarder sizzling over the bar after a neat one-touch exchange of passes which he started, Ifill and Tim Brown also playing pivotal roles in this seventh minute interchange.

Three minutes later, Mark Paston’s penchant for punching the ball clear - whatever happened to the art of catching the ball? - presented Wayne Srhoj with a volleyed chance which he snatched at, much like Daniel did at the other end of the park ten minutes later, after Clint Bolton had punched the ball off the head of Ifill following Leo Bertos’ willing pursuit of a lost cause enabled him to whip in a looping far post cross.

Prior to that chance, Wellington were denied the opening goal by a brilliant save from Bolton. Two minutes after allowing a probing Bertos pass, which Ifill pursued in vain, to run past him and curl narrowly past his left-hand upright, Melbourne’s ‘keeper produced a stunning reflex save to deny the energetic number eight, after Matt Thompson had gifted possession to Ifill inside the visitors’ penalty area.

Another Melbourne blunder wasn’t punished in the 32nd minute. This time, Bolton and Michael Beauchamp were guilty of a communications breakdown, allowing Brown to nip in between them on an angled run which took him to the by-line, from where he knocked the ball back to Ifill, who picked out Daniel with a cross which the naturalised Kiwi of Brazilian heritage headed wide of the far post.

Melbourne responded by carving open Wellington’s defence eight minutes before half-time. Adrian Zahra swooped on a stray Ben Sigmund pass and rode a challenge before splitting the home team’s defence with a peach of a pass which sent Alex Terra through with just Paston to beat.

The striker shot early as the ‘keeper approached, but lifted the ball over the bar - the worst miss of the half, but not the last. That honour befell Jason Hoffman four minutes later, his curled twenty yard effort arcing past the post after Zahra and Terra had teamed up again to prise open Wellington’s rearguard.

Initially, the second spell carried on where the first half left off - not much chop from a creative perspective! Lia and Troy Hearfield combined down the left in the 49th minute for Daniel’s benefit, and his pull-back from the by-line saw Ifill send a first-time snapshot fizzing past Bolton’s right-hand post.

Seven minutes later, Gerald Sibon pounced on a Lia error and turned before threading a delightfully weighted pass through Wellington’s defence. Terra was in again, and again he should have done better - Paston blocked his attempt to break the deadlock this time round.

Wellington’s ‘keeper was in the thick of the action in the 58th minute. Zahra and Josip Skoko combined to send Sibon through on goal with the ‘keeper to beat - Skoko’s lobbed pass was beautifully controlled by the Dutchman.

Sibon looked to lob Paston - no mean feat at the best of times, given his height - but failed, the ‘keeper pawing the ball to seeming safety. Zahra had other ideas, however, racing in to head the ball towards the target, but Paston had swiftly recovered his ground and saved on the line.

The deadlock was broken in the 62nd minute, and again, Bertos’ willingness to chase down a seemingly lost cause was central to the goal. Sigmund’s cross was missed by all-comers, but Bertos retrieved it and played the ball back to Lia before dashing into the penalty area.

The midfielder’s ball into the eighteen yard box was intended for Daniel, but Bertos stuck out a foot and steered the sphere away from his team-mate, right into the stride of Ifill. From eight yards, he poked the ball home under the despairing figure of Bolton to put Wellington 1-0 up.

Melbourne now had to chase the game, but their hopes of doing so were dashed twenty minutes from time when their captain was sent off. Thompson, having already been booked, clattered into Ifill right in front of rookie referee Jarred Gillett, who had no option but to send the frustrated defender plodding towards the unforgiving howls of the 4,738-strong Yellow Fever fraternity.

With him went any hopes Melbourne harboured of getting back into the match, and it soon became a case of how great Wellington’s winning margin would be. From the free-kick prompted by Thompson’s foul, Bertos flighted the ball into the goalmouth, and Sigmund beat Bolton in the air but couldn’t direct his header on target.

Two minutes later, the home team doubled their advantage. Substitute Nick Ward caught Beauchamp in possession, and Brown swiftly stormed onto the attack. He played the ball across to Ifill, who checked inside Aziz Behich before burying a beauty beyond Bolton to clinch the points for Wellington.

Melbourne’s ‘keeper denied the striker his hat-trick in the 79th minute, after Ifill had somehow emerged with the ball at his feet with Bolton to beat, despite the best efforts of three defenders inside the penalty area, while three minutes from time Ward and Bertos worked an opening down the left which saw the latter send a shot curling narrowly past the far post.

Not that Wellington minded - they were delighted with a first win in three matches on home turf, and will look to do their talking on the pitch again in three days time, when Melbourne Heart’s cross-town rivals, Melbourne Victory, grace Westpac Stadium.

A-League - 2010/2011 Season - 'Week' 15
7pm, Wednesday 24 November, 2010
at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 2
(Paul Ifill 62’, 73')
Melbourne Heart FC 0

    Crowd: 4,700


    Wellington Phoenix FC :
    Player listing:
    1. Mark PASTON (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 6. Tim BROWN, 7. Leo BERTOS (21. Marco ROJAS +90’+2), 8. Paul IFILL (9. Chris GREENACRE +90’+2), 11. DANIEL (4. Nick WARD +72’), 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 15. Jade NORTH, 17. Vince LIA, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 22. Andrew DURANTE (c)
    Substitutes not used: 19. Danny VUKOVIC (rgk)

    Coach: Ricki Herbert

    Yellow Cards: DANIEL 28’, Ben SIGMUND 83'
    Red Cards: Nil

    Melbourne Heart FC :
    Player listing:
    1. Clint BOLTON (gk), 2. Michael MARRONE, 5. Michael BEAUCHAMP, 6. Matt THOMPSON, 9. Gerald SIBON (21. Kliment TASESKI +76’), 10. Wayne SRHOJ, 11. Alex TERRA (3. Brendan HAMILL +76’), 16. Aziz BEHICH, 17. Jason HOFFMAN, 20. Josip SKOKO (22. Nick KALMAR +74’), 25. Adrian ZAHRA
    Substitutes not used: 12. Peter ZOIS (rgk)

    Coach: John van't Schip (Netherlands)

    Yellow Cards: Matt Thompson 57’, 71’
    Red Cards: Matt Thompson 71'

    Referee: Jarred Gillett 5/10
    Assistant referees: Glen Lochrie, Jan Hintz; Fourth official: Matt Conger

    Pitch rating: 7/10

    Game rating: 4/10

    BOTN Player Points :

    3. Paul Ifill (WP)
    2. Clint Bolton (MH)
    1. Leo Bertos (WP)

    Match Report by Jeremy Ruane

Picture Gallery - All Nick Guoth for BOTN

(Daniel (WP 11) and Aziz Behich (H 16))

(Paul Ifil salutes the crowd)

(The two heros of the night - Paul Ifil (WP 8) and Mark Paston (WP 1))

Disclaimer: The content of this report is the responsibility of the writer. Stats are either as recorded by the writer at the game, or as supplied by FFA, or a mixture - no responsibility can be taken for their compete accuracy although we do strive for that. Any photos used here, unless otherwise attributed, are as supplied by FFA and used by permission.

Crafted lovingly by hand
By fans, for fans
© Magic Llama 2000 - 2010