Hyundai A-League Season 6

Gold Coast rally to hold Wellington In wet
By Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

A-League - 2010/2011 Season - Round 2
Friday 13 August 20109
at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 3
(Paulk Ifill 6', Chris Greenacre 37', 55 ')
drew with
Gold Coast United FC 3
(Shane Smeltz 36', 74', Jason Culina 86')

(Linked from FFA site)

Gold Coast United mounted a stirring second half comeback to snatch a deserved 3-3 draw at a rain-soaked Westpac Stadium on 13 August, as Wellington Phoenix kicked off their 2010-11 Hyundai A-League campaign by producing an atrocious defensive display on a waterlogged pitch.

8,398 fans braved the inclement conditions - the rain never let up throughout proceedings - and witnessed the league's third 3-3 thriller in a competition which is only six matches old.

And they saw Gold Coast enjoying by far the better of the exchanges in the first half, with Dino Djulbic going close with a tame header from a Jason Culina corner after just two minutes.

Mark Paston dealt with this effort comfortably, but was far less confident two minutes later when dealing with Anderson's cross. His wayward punch sat up perfectly for Culina, who was unable to capitalise on the gift.

How United paid for that profligacy in the sixth minute, as Wellington opened the scoring with their first attack of note. Leo Bertos' fast feet along the by-line outfoxed a defender, and the resulting cross was headed out to Paul Ifill.

Wellington's star turn of last season was back in the groove straight away, his check and feint fooling two defenders, while his unerring left-foot drive arrowed past the diving Glen Moss and into the bottom far corner of the net from fifteen yards.

The natives were delighted, but within ninety seconds had their hearts in their mouths as the unmarked Zenon Caravella - Wellington?s central midfield combination was all at sea far too often in this match - thundered a twenty-five yarder against the outside of a post.

Ifill rewarded Chris Greenacre's surging run through the slush down the left seconds later with a rasping twenty-yarder which Moss was perfectly placed to deal with, much to the chagrin of the locals, who afforded the All Whites' custodian and his Gold Coast and New Zealand team-mate, Shane Smeltz, a 'special' welcome upon their return to the club they served so well.

The visitors spurned a glorious chance to draw level in the twelfth minute. Caravella and Culina worked a one-two in midfield which saw the latter thread a ball through in behind Wellington's porous defence for Joel Porter to stride onto. His low cross was tailor-made for Caravella to sweep home on the run, but he somehow contrived to direct his effort well wide of the target from fifteen yards.

Seven minutes later, the visitors were in again. Anderson sparked the raid inside his own half, but it was the interchange between Culina and Smeltz, allied to the overlapping run from Anderson, which made the move highly promising.

The fullback's low cross picked out James Brown, whose shot on the turn was superbly parried by Paston, but only into the stride of Caravella. The midfielder's effort was blocked to safety.

Ben Sigmund's desperation to prevent the lurking figure of Smeltz from capitalising on an angled Michael Thwaite cross nearly saw the defender putting the ball in his own net in the 21st minute. Paston was alert to the danger, however, and smothered solidly.

After Ifill had unleashed a twenty-five yard free-kick towards the target in a rare raid of note by the Wellingtonians, Gold Coast maintained their ascendancy in the 26th minute, led by Smeltz, who stormed down the right through the slush and the surface water on a box-to-box run which culminated in his cross for Caravella, one of four players up in support.

Vince Lia's timely intervention thwarted that opportunity, but ten minutes later, after continuing to dominate proceedings, Gold Coast were finally rewarded for their pressure with a deserved equaliser.

It was a text-book set-piece goal which was simplicity itself in its execution, but was made so by Wellington's defence going AWOL. How else do you explain Smeltz being afforded time and space aplenty in which to pick his spot from eight yards, having been picked out by Culina's free-kick to the far post?

The striker guided his header into the far corner of the net to give United a parity they richly merited, but which they maintained for all of ninety seconds.

Wellington went straight onto the attack following the equaliser, and after Ifill had earned and taken a corner which culminated in a second set-piece opportunity, Bertos stepped up and produced a quality delivery which Moss dealt with poorly.

His punch ricocheted off Kristian Rees' arm and sparked an almighty scramble inside the six-yard box. The ball was eventually cleared as far as Sigmund, whose header back into the zone was headed down and square by Tim Brown to Greenacre, who stabbed home from four yards to restore Wellington's lead - 2-1.

Only the timely intervention of Rees prevented Dylan MacAllister from marking his Wellington debut with a 39th minute goal which owed much to the creativity of Ifill, but it was the visitors who ended the half on top, and should have ended it on level terms in first half stoppage time.

Once again, Wellington's defending left more than a bit to be desired just outside their penalty area, and Culina was quick to take advantage. Spreading play wide, he brought Thwaite into the play, and his hanging cross for Smeltz caused all sorts of problems. Porter wasn?t able to take advantage in the ensuing chaos, and the home team eventually tidied up a mess of their own making.

Wellington started the second half smartly, Moss forced to hurtle out of goal to save at the feet of MacAllister after Andrew Durante had intercepted a Gold Coast pass half-way inside the visitors' half.

But United were quick to respond, only to be denied by a tackle from Sigmund which saved a certain equaliser in the 49th minute. Wellington's defence was static as Porter darted through onto Culina's flick, and he deftly side-stepped Paston to find himself facing an open goal eight yards away.

As Porter set himself to tuck the ball home into the untended net, Sigmund swooped like an eagle on unsuspecting prey and prodded the sphere to safety, much to the striker?s chagrin.

Things would soon get worse for United. After Djulbic somehow managed to head clear a Tony Lochhead cross from ground level - the defender had slipped on the sodden surface while retreating towards his own goal - Wellington extended their lead to 3-1 in the 55th minute.

Ifill was crudely felled by Thwaite, who rightly earned a yellow card for his challenge, one of six breaches of the game's Laws dealt with in this manner by well-performed referee Peter O?Leary.

Wellington took the set-piece swiftly, with Bertos the recipient of the sphere, which he duly curled into the goalmouth. MacAllister was the recipient of the delivery, and he neatly chested it down for Greenacre to crash home an unerring first-time volley off the underside of the crossbar from eight yards.

Having secured a two-goal cushion, the home team seemed content to rest on their laurels, and invited Gold Coast to attack them at will. Paston had to race out of goal to clear his lines in the 58th minute, as Smeltz and Porter pursued a raking clearance from Moss, while two minutes later, the All White striker came desperately close to netting his second goal of the game.

Porter chased a lost cause on the left, and was rewarded when the ball held up in the slush, allowing him to stride onto it and hit a first-time cross on the run to the far post. Arriving on cue was Smeltz, who steered the ball beyond Paston but against the upright.

Reacting swiftly, Smeltz beat Durante to the rebound, only to see the fast-recovering figure of Paston in position to parry his second attempt on goal. There wasn't to be a third - Sigmund saw to that.

Another defensive lapse by Wellington in the 63rd minute saw Thwaite left completely unmarked on the far post. Culina saw this, and promptly placed his corner on the head of the lanky midfielder.

Paston punched his header to safety, and was on hand to block with his legs from Culina ten minutes later, after substitute Troy Hearfield's first touch had directed the ball into the stride of Gold Coast's captain.

Culina was in the thick of the action once again seconds later, this time with quite an impact! Bertos gave possession away inside his own half of the pitch to Steve Pantelidis, who promptly played in his captain. Culina drew the defence before setting up Smeltz at the near post: 3-2, and a grandstand finish on the cards.

Wellington looked to reignite their game immediately. Lia's twenty-five yarder brought a flying parried save out of Moss in the 77th minute, while seven minutes later, two moments of magic from substitute Daniel Cortes contrived two opportunities inside sixty seconds.

The first saw him drawing two defenders towards him before his deft flick invited Lochhead to cross right-footed to the near post. There, Greenacre swooped, his flicked diving header prompting a fine save from Moss, who looked on with much relief seconds later as Ifill sent an angled ten-yard shot skidding narrowly past the far post upon receipt of a gem of a pass into his stride from Daniel.

Just when Wellington appeared to have done enough to score the three points, Gold Coast emerged to clinch the share of the spoils they thoroughly deserved four minutes from time. Caravella sprayed play wide to Porter, whose clipped cross was met with the most deft of glancing headers by Culina.

He guided the ball beyond the despairing dive of Paston and into the corner of the net - 3-3, and time aplenty in which to snatch a dramatic winner, something which Gold Coast, with their tails well and truly up, went all out to do.

Only a timely tackle from Hearfield denied Porter in the act of crossing - the substitute's error had invited United's star turn to penetrate Wellington's right flank once more - a minute from time, while in stoppage time the flying figure of Paston produced a quality save to thwart Robson's rasping twenty yard drive.

Gold Coast's wet sail finish - apt in the rain-sodden circumstances - and all-round display fully merited the point which they took home with them, although few would have begrudged them all three.

They played with far more cohesion than Wellington, who, particularly defensively, left a great deal to be desired with this opening display, one in which they contrived to lose a two-goal lead in awful playing conditions.

A-League - 2010/2011 Season - Round 2
Friday 13 August 20109
at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 3
(Paulk Ifill 6', Chris Greenacre 37', 55 ')
drew with
Gold Coast United FC 3
(Shane Smeltz 36', 74', Jason Culina 86')

    Crowd: 8,398


    Wellington Phoenix FC :
    Player listing:
    1.Mark PASTON [gk], 2.Manny MUSCAT, 3.Tony LOCHHEAD, 6.Tim BROWN, 7.Leo BERTOS (11.DANIEL 84), 8.Paul IFILL, 9.Chris GREENACRE, 17.Vince LIA, 18.Ben SIGMUND, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Dylan MACALLISTER (13.Troy HEARFIELD 72)
    Substitutes not used: 30.Jonathan GOULD [rgk], 10.Oscar Roberto CORNEJO.

    Coach: Ricki Herbert

    Yellow Cards: Leo Bertos 22, Andrew Durante 48, Ben Sigmund 80
    Red Cards: Nil

    Gold Coast United FC :
    Player listing:
    1. Glen MOSS [gk], 3.Michael THWAITE, 6.Dino DJULBIC, 7.Zenon CARAVELLA, 8.ANDERSON (15.Tahj MINNIECON 73), 9.Shane SMELTZ, 10.Jason CULINA (c), 13.Bas VAN DEN BRINK (5.ROBSON 63), 14.Joel PORTER, 16.Kristian REES (2.Steve PANTELIDIS 66), 18.James BROWN
    Substitutes not used: 20.Scott HIGGINS [rgk]

    Coach: Miron Bleiberg

    Yellow Cards: Dino Djulbic 18, Michael Thwaite 55, Tahj Minniecon 90'+2
    Red Cards: Nil

    Referee: Peter O'Leary 6/10

    Pitch rating: 7/10 - considering the amount of water around, it held up very well!

    Game rating: 8/10

    BOTN Player Points :

    3. Joel Porter (GCU)
    2. Chris Greenacre (WP)
    1. Paul Ifill (WP)

    Match Report by Jeremy Ruane

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. FFA has not this season accredited any Photographers for BOTN, so any photos used here, unless otherwise attributed, are as supplied by FFA and used by permission.

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