Hyundai A-League Season 6

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Scoreless in Melbourne
By Alan Clark

A-League 2010/2011 - Round 6
7:30pm, Wednesday 15 September, 2010 - Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne Victory FC 0

drew with
Wellington Phoenix FC 0

(Linked from FFA site)

Wellington Phoenix took its first away point of this year's campaign in a scoreless draw against Melbourne Victory on Wednesday evening. The healthy mid-week attendance of over 11,000 would have preferred another rambunctious Melbourne win akin to events at that venue just three days before, when Victory had a highly-productive second half against the hapless Brisbane Roar, but Phoenix was considerably more competent in defence, and sharper up front than the Queensland side.

Indeed, a neutral observer would reasonably have assumed it was Phoenix which was the host and Victory the visitor, such was the confidence and control exerted by coach Ricki Herbert's combination.

All the opportunities of note were manufactured by Wellington, with man-of-the-match Paul Ifill at the heart of most of them. He was constantly tracked by Diogo Ferreira, brought into the side by Ernie Merrick to cover the ankle injury to captain Kevin Muscat which looks likely to sideline the aging warrior for some weeks. Ferreira will scarcely have a harder assignment, and would surely have been given pass marks by Merrick, even though Ifill was Phoenix's most influential attacking avenue.

Victory had played within itself in the first half against Roar, and so its quiet approach to the opening against Phoenix was unsurprising. The Victory attendance is a football-aware one, and patient in such circumstances. But it would have been very disappointed that the first half circumspection was continued in the second.

Ricardinho showed flashes of endeavour up front for Victory, but will need to show a higher work-rate to truly endear himself to the home support. Carlos Hernandez continued his good form - his balance on the ball is wonderful to behold - and he is highly effective combining with the energetic midfield worker-bees of Grant Brebner and Leigh Broxham, noted for their pitch-covering and ball-winning.

But despite all these assets, Victory rarely put stand-in Phoenix goalkeeper Danny Vukovic under pressure, and on the few occasions the Wellington defence was breached, he dealt with matters confidently. Jade North and Andrew Durrante, twin centre-backs for Wellington, provided a strong foundation for the back-line, ably supported by Ben Sigmund and Tony Lochhead in wider positions. Sigmund was hampered by an early caution, and needed to be very careful from then on when countering livewire winger Tom Pondeljak and Hernandez, but did so for the remainder of the game without further referee intervention.

Phoenix created the better chances throughout the game, the first coming barely five minutes in. Durrante only just failed to reach Ifill's free-kick from the right which carried through to his position at the far post with Victory goalkeeper Michael Petkovic highly exposed.

And five minutes later, Ifill outjumped Adrian Leijer to direct a header goalwards which forced a fine save from Petkovic.

Nick Ward, returning to face the team he had only recently departed, then shot narrowly wide from a corner, the ball clearing the outside of the near post by centimetres.

But the best chance came a minute from the interval. Ifill, who had been at the heart of much of Phoenix's better forays, had run into space wide left, then struck a cross to where Chris Greenacre stood, awaiting such a golden opportunity. His first touch, an attempt at a volleyed goal, was a total miscue, allowing Rody Vargas and Leijer to close him down. Greenacre still had the ball at his feet and, making effective connection this time, sent in a shot which Petkovic was grateful to touch over.

Victory was under pressure and the interval could not come quickly enough.

Just three days before, against Brisbane Roar, Victory had similarly had a nervy first half, then broke convincingly away in the second after two judicious substitutions by Merrick.

There was no quick turn-around on this occasion. Phoenix still looked solid at the back, and dangerous when in possession. But it took until after the second half's midpoint for a goal-chance to emerge. Tim Brown was fed from the left to his position at inside right, then turned inwards to set up a shooting angle. The strike was fierce and across the face of goal towards the far post. Petkovic dived to cover, failed to reach it, then watched as it narrowly cleared the angle.

A minute later Victory went close. Ricardinho was played through by Billy Celeski up the right, beating Sigmund as he scampered away, and then taking on Durrante before letting loose a shot which was heading for the top right angle but for a finger-tip save by Vukovic which diverted the ball over the bar for a corner.

This was the first in a series of midweek games designed to ensure a thirty-three round league season can be squeezed into a mere twenty-seven competition weeks, and twenty-eight calendar weeks in the program.

Victory will have a concentrated period involving four games in 13 days early next year. Wellington Phoenix will have a more onerous obligation with will five in 15 later this year. The chances are such a schedule will cause teams to play well within themselves, approaching the program with caution, rather than adventurism.

Whether it's what fans want to see will be another matter.

A-League 2010/2011 - Round 6
7:30pm, Wednesday 15 September, 2010 - Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne Victory FC 0
drew with
Wellington Phoenix FC 0

    Crowd: 11,513


    Melbourne Victory FC :
    Player listing:
    (3-4-3) 1. Michael Petkovic (gk), 13 Diogo Ferreira (17 Matthew Foscini +81'), 23 Adrian Leijer (c), 12 Rodrigo Vargas, 6 Leigh Broxham, 8 Grant Brebner, 14 Billy Celeski, 5 Surat Sukha, 15 Tom Pondeljak (3 Mate Dugandzic +59'), 16 Carlos Hernandez, 9 Ricardinho (27 Geoff Kellaway +85')
    Substitutes not used: 20 Sebastian Mattei (rgk)

    Coach: Ernie Merrick

    Yellow Cards: Diogo Ferreira 42', Matthew Foschini 89'
    Red Cards: Nil

    Wellington Phoenix FC :
    Player listing:
    (4-3-3) 19. Danny Vukovic (gk), 18 Ben Sigmund, 15 Jade North, 22 Andrew Durante (c), 3 Tony Lochhead, 4 Nick Ward, 6 Tim Brown, 2 Manny Muscat, 7 Leo Bertos, 9 Chris Greenacre (14 Mirjan Pavlovic +77'), 8 Paul Ifill (11 Daniel Cortes 81') Substitutes not used: 1. Mark Paston (rgk), 13. Troy Hearfield

    Coach: Ricki Herbert

    Yellow Cards: Ben Sigmund 17', Chris Greenacre 51', Paul Ifill 78'
    Red Cards: Nil

    Referee: Ben Williams
    AR1: James Nicolopoulos, AR2: Shaun Evans; FO: Lucien Laverdure

    Pitch rating: 8/10

    Game rating: 6/10

    BOTN Player Points:

    3. Paul Ifill (Wellington Phoenix)
    2. Carlos Hernandez (Melbourne Victory)
    1. Andrew Durante (Wellington Phoenix)

    Match Report by Alan Clark

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 attributed, are as supplied by FFA and used by permission.

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