Hyundai A-League Season 6

Back-to-back play-offs
for Wellington Phoenix
By Jeremy Ruane
(with the compliments of

A-League 2010/2011 - Round 27
7:00pm, Sunday 13 February, 2011 - Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 3
(Chris Greenacre 7’, Dylan Macallister 11’, Danny Vukovic 90’+3 pen)
North Queensland Fury FC 1
(Brett Studman 66')

Wellington Phoenix secured a second successive berth in the Hyundai A-League play-offs in front of a delighted 12,718-strong crowd at Westpac Stadium on 13 February, as they downed North Queensland Fury 3-1 to clinch a sixth-placed finish for the season.

Wellington piled on the pressure in the early stages of the game, and were rewarded with two virtually identical goals in the first eleven minutes which effectively killed off the match as a contest.

Marco Rojas slipped Chris Greenacre through the offside trap in the sixth minute, and he ran on to execute a calm finish beyond Sebastian Usai, who found himself fishing the ball out of the net again five minutes later.

Dylan MacAllister was the executioner on this occasion, his run through the offside trap rewarded by Ben Sigmund’s angled ball from deep, which allowed the striker to run on and lob the ball over the stranded ‘keeper.

Wellington continued to dominate without threatening for the next few minutes, leaving North Queensland to feed off scraps during this time. But in the 24th minute, Rojas’ cross to the far post found MacAllister rising high, only for the marksman to direct his header straight at Usai.

Ten minutes later, the home team created two chances in thirty seconds, both of which were deserving of better fate. A jinking Rojas run through four opponents into the heart of the penalty area was only foiled by Mark Hughes’ timely tackle, while seconds later Tim Brown let fly with a dipping thirty yard effort which narrowly cleared the crossbar.

North Queensland’s only moment of note in the first half came nine minutes before the break, and should have seen them halving the deficit. A David Williams-inspired raid foundered on Wellington’s defence, but Jade North’s clearance sat up perfectly for Chris Grossman, some twenty-five yards out from goal.

He miscued his shot towards the target, which somewhat caught Williams by surprise - had he been on his toes, he would almost certainly have found the net from six yards, rather than poking it past the upright.

As they had in the first half, Wellington began the second spell brightly, applying plenty of pressure as they searched for a killer third goal which would make absolutely certain of their progress.

Try as they might, however, it wouldn’t come. Rojas rattled the advertising hoardings upon receipt of an inviting cross from Troy Hearfield in the 48th minute, while the youngster’s free-kick three minutes later saw Sigmund flying in to meet it, only for Hughes to beat him in the air and rescue the situation for his side - North’s captain had a terrific game.

Brown sent a volley flashing across the face of goal soon afterwards, although his boot also caught Brett Studman in the face as the defender stooped in an effort to head clear. A defensive free-kick was awarded for high feet - a tad harsh when Studman’s head was somewhere near hip height …

Just shy of the hour mark, Sigmund surged out of defence and ultimately found himself on the end of the attack he ignited. The source? Rojas, of course, another tantalising cross to the far post which the defender directed inches over the bar with a powerful header.

The visitors, as had been the case in the first half, were rarely sighted as an attacking force up to this point in the second spell. But a 64th minute raid down the left by Andre Kilian which had Grossman as its intended target forced North to intercede, at the expense of a corner.

Brad McDonald delivered the ball to a spot eight yards out from goal where Studman was loitering, completely unmarked. No prizes for guessing what he did with glee - 2-1, game on!

The goal did wonders for North Queensland’s confidence in what was their final game of the season and, such is the situation in which the club finds itself, perhaps ever. They certainly kept Wellington honest throughout the remainder of the match, but didn’t give Danny Vukovic any further cause for concern.

Unlike his opposite number, Usai, who was relieved when referee Peter O’Leary ignored Brown’s claims for a free-kick nineteen minutes from time, as substitute Jason Spagnuolo marked his entry to the fray by fouling Wellington’s captain.

North’s ‘keeper was called into action again ten minutes from time, racing out of his area to head the ball to seeming safety, only for Greenacre to let fly on the volley as Usai’s header dropped to him.

The young number one, by now back inside his penalty area, launched himself to his right to pull off a fine parried save, and was back in position to smother Nick Ward’s attempt to capitalise on the loose ball seconds later.

With time running out, and their play-off position safe, Wellington went all out for one final goal to reward their fans in this, their final home game of the season. It came from an unlikely source four minutes into stoppage time.

Substitute Mirjan Pavlovic, a late replacement for the ever-enterprising figure of Rojas, stormed downfield in pursuit of a hefty clearance, Studman on his shoulder all the way. The striker won the race to the ball in the penalty area, where he was spun around by the chasing defender, who prevented a goalscoring opportunity with his actions. Referee O’Leary had no hesitation - penalty, and a red card for Studman’s professional foul.

Ever since he hit the crossbar with a clearance from his own penalty area, Wellington’s fans had been baying for Vukovic to ‘shoot’! And with this being his final game on home turf for the club - he is Perth-bound next season - what better time to oblige the masses than by allowing Vukovic to step forward and, well, shoot!

Usai didn’t stand a chance of stopping the last kick of the game. Nothin’ but net from the penalty spot, and a delighted Vukovic led the celebrations as Wellington confirmed their play-off berth with this 3-1 win - a sixth home win in succession - at the expense of the bottom-placed North Queensland, who concluded their campaign by losing their last eight games.

A-League 2010/2011 - Round 27
7:00pm, Sunday 13 February, 2011 - Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 3
(Chris Greenacre 7’, Dylan Macallister 11’, Danny Vukovic 90’+3 pen)
North Queensland Fury FC 1
(Brett Studman 66')

    Crowd: 12,700


    Wellington Phoenix FC :
    Player listing:
    19. Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 3. Tony LOCHHEAD, 4. Nicky WARD, 6. Tim BROWN (c), 9, Chris GREENACRE, 13. Troy HEARFIELD, 15. Jade NORTH, 18. Ben SIGMUND, 21. Marco ROJAS (14.Mirjan PAVLOVIC +88’), 23. Dylan MACALLISTER (11. DANIEL +81’)

    Substitutes not used: 20. Reece CROWTHER, 12. James MUSA

    Coach: Ricki Herbert

    Yellow Cards: Tony LOCHHEAD 75’
    Red Cards: Nil

    North Queensland Fury FC :
    Player listing:
    2. Jack HINGERT, 3. Brad McDONALD, 5. Mark HUGHES, 7. Gareth EDDS(c), 8. Adam CASEY (22. Lorenzo SIPI 46’), 11. David WILLIAMS (21. Jason SPAGNUOLO 58’), 13. Andre KILIAN (17. Alex READ 70’), 14. Chris GROSSMAN, 16. Simon STOREY, 18. Brett STUDMAN, 28. Sebastian USAI (gk)

    Substitutes not used: 30.Jerrad TYSON (rgk)

    Coach: Frank Straka

    Yellow Cards: Jack HINGERT 54’, Jason SPAGNUOLO 80’, Alex READ 87’
    Red Cards: Brett Studman 90'+3

    Referee: Peter Green 6/10
    Assistant referees: Ashley Beecham, David Walsh; Fourth official: Jarred Gillett

    Pitch rating: 7/10

    Game rating: 5/10

    BOTN Player Points :

    3. Mark Hughes (NQ)
    2. Marco Rojas (NQ)
    1. Manny Muscat (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. Any photos used here, unless attributed, are as supplied by FFA and used by permission.

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