Hyundai A-League Season 6

North Queensland gifts
help Wellington set record
By Jeremy Ruane
(with the compliments of

A-League 2010/2011 - Round 8
7:30pm, Friday 24 September, 2010 - Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 2
(Chris Greenacre 2', Leo Bertos 13')
North Queensland Fury FC 1
(Mark Hughes 67')

Wellington Phoenix established a new Australian National League record for the most consecutive home games without defeat at a solitary venue on 24 September, as the ten-man locals held off North Queensland Fury 2-1 in front of 7,212 wind-chilled fans at 'Fortress Cake-tin', aka Westpac Stadium.

The wind was a constant factor throughout this Hyundai A-League encounter, but the visitors only have themselves to blame for handing Wellington what proved a decisive advantage in this match, as awful North Queensland defensive errors presented the home team with their goals inside the first thirteen minutes.

Seconds after tipping a teasing Nick Ward cross-shot to safety, Norths 'keeper Justin Pasfield scuffed an attempted clearance straight to Chris Greenacre, lurking some six yards outside the penalty area.

The striker wasted little time in rounding the embarrassed custodian and stroking the ball home into an empty net - 1-0 Wellington, with less than three minutes on the clock, and Pasfield looking for the nearest wormhole to crawl into!

Things soon got worse for the visitors, after Daniel, starting in place of the injured Paul Ifill, had a goal wrongly ruled out by an offside flag in the eleventh minute. Wellington fell foul of the offside trap far too frequently and inexcusably in this match, but this was one occasion when the officials definitely got it wrong, as the striker received the ball from a North Queensland defender!

The home team had just two minutes to wait, however, before Norths' central defender, Eric Akoto, very kindly made up for the flag-bearer's blunder by gifting Wellington their second goal.

Unless you're as good a defender as Alan Hansen or Franz Beckenbauer were in their prime, you don't try to dribble out of defence - your primary role is to get the ball and give it to a team-mate whose talent set is better suited to causing havoc in rival ranks.

The cardinal sin of defensive play was committed by Akoto on the edge of his penalty area. Under pressure from Greenacre, he effectively presented the ball on a plate to Leo Bertos, who wasted little time in jinking inside before despatching a shot beyond the diving Pasfield and in off the far post - 2-0, and given the injury-hit nature of North Queensland's ranks, the contest seemingly over before it had barely begun.

To their credit, the visitors rallied, although they should have been reduced to ten men on the quarter hour when Ufuk Talay left Greenacre seeing stars in an off-the-ball incident which could very well attract the attention of the A-League's disciplinary committee, given it was one of few incidents not sighted by referee Peter O'Leary.

Despite the seemingly insurmountable situation, one North Queensland defender hadn't given up hope, and Mark Hughes produced a performance which was the difference between the final outcome and a rout.

His first intervention, on the half-hour, prevented Greenacre from getting on the end of a cross from the industrious Ward, while it was the latter who was next thwarted by the stopper nine minutes later, after Bertos and Greenacre combined on the right.

Seconds beforehand, Greenacre had seen Pasfield save at his feet after North Queensland failed to deal with a Bertos free-kick whipped in from the left flank, the same wing off which Manny Muscat raced inside to let fly five minutes before half-time.

It was a classic defender's shot, in that it was decidedly wayward, but not so much so that anyone following couldn't have taken advantage of the opportunity. Ward was, but was so stunned to see the ball zooming towards him that he stumbled over it in his surprise!

North Queensland had but seconds to savour before their goal came under threat again, as Wellington laid siege to their goal in the final minutes of the half. Ward sent Greenacre dashing down the left, from where he picked out Bertos with a low cross which invited the winger to strike. Simon Storey's timely intervention thwarted this opening.

Pasfield punched out Daniel's subsequent corner, while the massed ranks of visiting defenders stood firm in the final two minutes of the half, as Bertos buccaneered to the left-hand by-line on receipt of a Muscat pass, only to hesitate upon finding his initial options rather limited in numbers.

North Queensland began the second spell in blitzkrieg fashion, only to have the wind initially knocked out of their sails by a quite magnificent reflex fingertip save from Danny Vukovic.

Wellington's 'keeper had had nothing of note to do in the first half, but when Talay's angled ball eventually reached David Williams - Muscat wasn't quite able to clear it - the young Socceroo delivered a first-time pass into the stride of Osama Malik, who hit a fifteen yard screamer which had 'top corner' written all over it until Vukovic's instincts determined otherwise. A truly outstanding denial.

To add insult to injury, Vukovic plucked Williams' resulting corner from the skies and instantly launched a Wellington counter-attack with an inch-perfect thrown clearance to Bertos, lurking near half-way.

He scooted down the left before clipping a delightful cross just over the head of Greenacre. Ward was racing in behind him, but Hughes was back to avert the danger this time round.

Wellington were playing the better football for the conditions - ball on the deck as much as possible, thus minimising the wind's effect, with Ben Sigmund making a number of eye-catching runs down the right as an overlapping fullback. When North Queensland got the ball, too often they were squandering it cheaply, with ill-timed or ill-conceived passes.

Where the home team was coming unstuck was on the disciplinary front. Some silly bookings, some needless bookings, and, after Hughes had directed a header at Vukovic from a Talay corner on the hour, one booking too many for Vince Lia - a clumsy tackle from behind in the 64th minute earned the yellow card it merited, the midfielder's second of the game.

Lia's dismissal saw Wellington's Yellow Fever fans berating referee O'Leary, but their banal chanting revealed more about their own lack of knowledge of the game. Save for a couple of occasions when he opted for man-management instead of the card which was merited, the official gave a very sound display - after no less than six fourth official roles at the World Cup Finals, no doubt the opportunity to take charge was one he relished.

Just to compound Wellington's reduced numbers, North Queensland pulled a goal back virtually straight away. Hughes unleashed a thunderous 67th minute twenty-five yard free-kick which deflected wickedly off the defensive wall and arced over the stranded figure of Vukovic into the top far corner of the net - 2-1, game on!

The shot of confidence the goal gave the visitors was short-lived, for it was Wellington who continued to play football best suited to the conditions, despite the setback. Bertos saw a free-kick take two deflections off defenders before Pasfield grabbed it fifteen minutes from time.

Four minutes later, Tim Brown sent the winger down the right, and his inch-perfect cross to the near post was only prevented from reaching Greenacre, its intended target, by the outstanding Hughes, who followed up this superb headed clearance by looping a header onto the roof of Wellington's net three minutes from time, as North Queensland sought a last-gasp leveller.

Williams sent a thirty yarder fizzing over the crossbar, while Vukovic smothered a twenty yard effort from substitute Jack Hingert in stoppage time, but the best chance to equalise North Queensland had in their late flurry came in the 88th minute.

Chris Grossman - he worked hard throughout for little reward - fed substitute Jason Spagnuolo through the inside left channel, and he turned to find himself in space and with Vukovic alone to beat. He opted to shoot early, and his effort cleared the 'keeper, and the crossbar also - a glorious chance cheaply spurned, effectively ensuring Wellington's ten men would prevail at 'Fortress Cake-tin' yet again.

A-League 2010/2011 - Round 8
7:30pm, Friday 24 September, 2010 - Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 2
(Chris Greenacre 2', Leo Bertos 13')
North Queensland Fury FC 1
(Mark Hughes 67')



    Wellington Phoenix FC :
    Player listing:
    19. Danny Vukovic (gk), 2. Manny Muscat, 4. Nick Ward, 6. Tim Brown, 7. Leo Bertos ( 23. Dylan McCallister 92'), 9. Chris Greenacre, 11. Daniel (10. Oscar Roberto Cornejo 85'), 15. Jade North, 17. Vince Lia, 18. Ben Sigmund (13. Troy Hearfield 81'), 22. Andrew Durante.

    Substitutes not used: 1. Mark Paston (rgk)

    Coach: Ricki Herbert

    Yellow Cards: Vince Lia 37, Leo Bertos 58, Ben Sigmund 65, Daniel 69
    Red Cards: Vince Lia 64'

    North Queensland Fury FC :
    Player listing:
    1. Justin Pasfield (gk), 3. Brad McDonald, 4. Eric Akoto, 5. Mark Hughes, 6. Ufuk Talay (c) (2. Jack Hingert 74'), 7. Gareth Edds (21. Jason Spagnuolo 63'), 11. David Williams, 14. Chris Grossman, 16. Simon Storey, 17. Osama Malik, 18. Brett Studman

    Substitutes not used: 12. Panagiotis Nikas, 28. Sebastian Usai (gk)

    Coach: Frank Straka

    Yellow Cards: Ufuk Talay 65, Brett Studman 76
    Red Cards: Nil

    Referee: Peter O'Leary 7/10
    Assistant referees: Mark Rule, Glen Lochrie; Fourth official: Matthew Conger

    Pitch rating: 7/10

    Game rating: 6/10

    BOTN Player Points :

    3. Mark Hughes (NQF)
    2. Leo Bertos (WP)
    1. Ben Sigmund (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 attributed, are as supplied by FFA and used by permission.

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