Hyundai A-League - 2011/2012 - Season 7 Finals series

Late Late Show Sees Wellington Edge Sydney
By Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

2011/2012 Hyundai A-League - Elimination Final
8pm, Friday 30 March 2012
at Westpac Stadium Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 3
(Tim Brown 47', Ben Sigmund 79', Paul Ifill 85' pen)

Sydney FC 2
(Joel Chianese 80', 84')

Wellington Phoenix edged out Sydney FC 3-2 in the first match of the 2011-12 Hyundai A-League play-off series at Westpac Stadium on 30 March, a disappointing crowd numbering just 10,019 witnessing a dour match which exploded into life in the last fifteen minutes.

Prior to that period of play, this was a typical do-or-die encounter - with so much at stake, defences dominated proceedings, and dour play aplenty meant memorable moments were few and far between. Indeed, the first half was decidedly sterile, with the four bookings almost matching the incidents which lifted the match out of the mundane.

The first of the latter events came in just the third minute of play, when a raking Ivan Necevski clearance picked out Brett Emerton on the right wing. His deft flick inside allowed Nick Carle to return the favour with a pass into his stride, but Emerton, who would have been flagged offside had he latched onto the ball, drifted inside.

Instead, Bruno Cazarine loomed into view, took the ball in his stride and got to the edge of the penalty area before steering the ball back into Carle's path. The playmaker's shot was deflected to safety.

The visitors spurned a great chance to open the scoring fourteen minutes later. Karol Kisel's free-kick sent Joel Chianese careering down the right, and his precise cross for Cazarine invited the striker to let fly. Vince Lia appeared on the scene at that moment and deftly diverted the ball to safety.

Wellington's first opening of the match was sparked by Manny Muscat's crossfield ball to Tony Lochhead, who slipped the ball inside to Paul Ifill. The striker slipped inside a defender before unleashing a twentieth minute drive which Necevski smothered solidly.

The visitors retorted instantly, Jamieson's free-kick picking out Chianese, whose header was soundly grabbed at the foot of his left-hand post by Mark Paston. His opposite number, Necevski, then produced the save of the half in the 25th minute to keep out Andrew Durante's header from Leo Bertos' corner to the far post, the last incident of note in the first spell.

The second began brilliantly as far as Wellington was concerned - they opened the scoring! Just two minutes in, Bertos flighted in a free-kick from the right which wasn't cleared. Ben Sigmund promptly headed the ball down into the stride of Tim Brown.

Wellington's captain for the day had, earlier in the week, announced he would be retiring from football at the end of this Hyundai A-League season. So if this was to be his last match on home soil, his deftly taken goal - he poked an acute-angled effort across Necevski into the far corner from six yards - was the perfect parting shot.

The sight of Sydney defender Pascal Bosschaart departing the fray on a stretcher after his knee gave way beneath him five minutes into the second half was a sobering sight for everyone present.

But only the locals were disappointed when Ifill spurned a glorious chance to double Wellington's lead, shooting straight at Necevski in a one-on-one opportunity made possible by Chris Greenacre's interception and subsequent defence-splitting pass in the 58th minute.

The roles were reversed four minutes later, after Durante had broken up a Carle-led raid. Ifill's nicely weighted chip over the defence allowed Greenacre to race through and direct a shot towards the bottom far corner of the net, but Necevski plunged to his left to deny him.

After Emerton's short free-kick had allowed Jamieson to unleash a twenty-yarder which Paston tipped over the bar in the 68th minute, Muscat bucaneered down the right two minutes later and fired over a cross-shot which had Necevski in two minds, Sydney's 'keeper ultimately forced to tip the dipping ball over his own bar.

Wellington were looking the more likely winners by this stage - Sydney had enjoyed the better of the first half exchanges, and eighteen minutes from time only a fine save by Necevski prevented them from effectively sealing the deal.

Ifill and Greenacre teamed up on the right for Bertos' benefit. The winger evaded one challenge then drifted between two defenders to leave himself one-on-one with Necevski, who spread himself superbly to save at the feet of the Wellington flankman.

Bertos' delivery arrived in the heart of Sydney's goalmouth, at the precise time Sigmund was arriving in that very spot. Thwunk! Head met ball, and net instantly bulged, an unchallenged header from six yards proving impossible for Necevski and pals to prevent - 2-0, and with twelve minutes left, surely a place in the final four was Wellington's to savour.

Sydney were reading a different script, however, for within five minutes, they had drawn level. Carle was the instigator, supplementing his darting run with a deft lofted angled pass which substitute Mark Bridge directed into the stride of Chianese.

The striker calmly lobbed the advancing Paston inside the penalty area - 2-1 after eighty minutes - then stunned the local faithful three minutes later with an equaliser. Bridge worked a one-two with the marksman before lashing a twenty-yarder which Paston could only parry. Chianese, following in, couldn't miss ...

Parity again, then, but it lasted just two minutes. For a Kisel pass ricocheted off Brown to send the ever-alert Ifill racing through towards goal. He got into the penalty area but never got the chance to shoot, the retreating Michael Beauchamp bringing him down unceremoniously to concede a penalty and become the fifth of the game's six bookings.

Once punishment had been administered, the man who had earned the opportunity to put Wellington in front once more duly did so, Ifill sending Necevski the wrong way from the penalty spot with a top corner special to the unbridled joy of Wellington's "Yellow Fever" following - 3-2, and five minutes remaining for Sydney to try and retrieve the game again.

Time was their enemy, and so was Wellington's rearguard, which denied Sydney at every turn to such an extent that there was just one more chance to alter the scoreline in the remaining minutes, and it fell the way of the home team.

Ifill and Greenacre led a stoppage time counter-attack which culminated in Necevski saving at the feet of Bertos once more, this time deep in Sydney's penalty area. The final whistle sounded soon afterwards, much to the undisguised joy of Wellington.

They now await the outcome of the clash between Perth Glory and Melbourne Heart to determine if they head way out west in the wild blue yonder, or entertain the Victorian team in New Zealand's capital on Easter weekend, ideally in front of a crowd far bigger in size than this disappointing turn-out. Wellington Phoenix's players' efforts are deserving of support in much greater numbers, surely.

2011/2012 Hyundai A-League - Elimination Final
8pm, Friday 30 March 2012
at Westpac Stadium Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 3
(Tim Brown 47', Ben Sigmund 79', Paul Ifill 85' pen)

Sydney FC 2
(Joel Chianese 80', 84')

    Crowd: 10,019


    Wellington Phoenix FC :
    Player listing:
    1. Mark Paston (gk), 2. Manny Muscat, 3. Tony Lochhead, 6. Tim Brown, 7. Leo Bertos (11. Daniel Cortes 92), 8. Paul Ifill, 9. Chris Greenacre, 17. Vince Lia, 18. Ben Sigmund, 21. Daniel Sanchez (24. Alex Smith 77), 22. Andrew Durante (c)
    Substitutes not used: 20. Anthony Warner (rgk), 12. Nick Ward, 14. Mirjan Pavlovic

    Coach: Ricki Herbert

    Yellow Cards: Tim Brown 29', Daniel Sanchez 31', Vince Lia 87'
    Red Cards: Nil

    Sydney FC :
    Player listing:
    20. Ivan Necevski (gk), 4. Pascal Bosschaart (2. Sebastian Ryall +51'), 5. Michael Beauchamp, 7. Brett Emerton, 8. Karol Kisel, 9. Bruno Cazarine (19. Mark Bridge +60'), 10. Nick Carle, 12. Shannon Cole, 15. Terry McFlynn (c) (17. Terry Antonis +80'), 16. Joel Chianese, 21. Scott Jamieson
    Substitutes not used: 30. Ryan Norval (rgk), 24. Mitchell Mallia

    Coach: Vitezslav Lavicka

    Yellow Cards: Scott Jamieson 28', Bruno Cazarine 44', Michael Beauchamp 84'
    Red Cards:Nil

    Referee: Chris Beath 5/10
    Assistant Referees: David Walsh, Jan-Hendrick Hintz; Fourth official: Matt Conger

    BOTN Player Points:
    > 3. Tim Brown (WP)
    2. Nick Carle (SFC)
    1. Vince Lia (WP)

    Pitch rating: 8/10

    Game rating: 6/10

    Match Report and ratings: By Jeremy Ruane

A-League: 2011-2012 Season
BOTN Team Podcast - No.3
... and then there were 4!


No photos this time

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