Hyundai A-League - 2011/2012 - Season 7

Perth's extra time winner ends Wellington's season
By Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

2011/2012 Hyundai A-League - Finals Series
Minor Semi-Final - 4:30 pm, Saturday 7 April, 2012
at East Perth Oval (aka Nib Stadium)

Perth Glory FC 2 (3 AET)
(Bas van den Brink 13', Billy Mehmet 72', Todd Howarth 112')
Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (2 AET)
(Chris Greenacre '47, Manny Muscat '55)

Perth Glory substitute Todd Howarth struck an extra time winner eight minutes from the end of a gripping Hyundai A-League Play-Off Series encounter at NIB Stadium on 7 April to clinch a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Wellington Phoenix and end the season of the beaten team.

A cagey first half enjoyed few highlights, the first of which came in the twelfth minute. Andrezinho's delightfully flighted free-kick found Travis Dodd darting into space, and his deft header required a solid one-handed save from Mark Paston to prevent the ball from entering the net.

The outcome was a corner, which was the next best thing as far as Perth were concerned, as Jacob Burns' delivery proved. Wellington failed to clear it in the air, and the ball bounced off the knee of Tony Lochhead, who was covering the area by the far post.

It fell perfectly into the stride of Bas Van den Brink, who fair battered the ball into the roof of the net from eight yards to open the scoring for the home team, much to the delight of the 13,695-strong crowd.

Over the course of the next twelve minutes, Paston twice more denied Perth, gathering at the feet of Shane Smeltz in a one-on-one situation after the in-form striker had been released by a peach of a pass from Liam Miller, then smothering a twenty-yarder from Andrezinho after Smeltz had caught Wellington's Tim Brown in possession on what was to be the occasion of his footballing swansong.

The visitors were enjoying plenty of possession in the first spell, but were creating very little of consequence with it - their final ball was all too often found wanting. The closest they came to levelling the scores during the opening forty-five minutes came eight minutes prior to the interval, but Dani Sanchez lacked the composure to hit the target after bursting onto the ball in the penalty area.

Perth, too, were guilty of some profligate finishing, Billy Mehmet's first-time volley flashing past Paston's right-hand post after the striker was picked out by an absolute peach of a pass from Miller in the 33rd minute.

Had that gone in, it's fair to say Perth would have gone on to win this match comfortably. Instead, they found themselves trailing inside the first ten minutes of the second half, as Wellington turned things round in stunning fashion.

Just 85 seconds after the game had resumed, they were back on level terms thanks to a superb goal. Paul Ifill gathered the ball on half-way and fed Chris Greenacre, who slipped the ball into the stride of Leo Bertos, who was looping around his team-mate to add width to the attack.

The winger's cross was chested down by Brown into the stride of Greenacre, who, from fifteen yards, unleashed a sumptuous volley which left Danny Vukovic beaten all ends up as it arrowed into the bottom right-hand corner of his net.

After Miller had gone close with a twenty-five yarder, and Paston had smothered a Smeltz cross intended for Mehmet at his near post, the visitors took the lead in the 55th minute.

Bertos, now on the left, switched play to Manny Muscat, who swerved inside Dean Heffernan before curling home a gem of a twenty-yarder around Vukovic and into the bottom right-hand corner of his net - 2-1, and the silence of the sizable crowd was music to the ears of the visiting contingent.

Virtually straight away, Perth began piling on the pressure in search of an equaliser, with a fine parried save by Paston denying Mehmet at the sharp end of an enterprising raid featuring Travis Dodd, Josh Risdon and Andrezinho just shy of the hour mark.

Wellington defender Ben Sigmund departed the fray with an injury soon after, and as the visitors were reshuffling their pack, Miller and Burns combined to play in Andrezinho down the left. The Brazilian's cross found Smeltz ghosting in between Andrew Durante and Tony Lochhead on the far post, but the New Zealand international directed his header over the bar - by his standards, a poor miss.

The visitors were denied what appeared to be a clear-cut penalty by referee Peter Green in the 69th minute, Ifill being sent tumbling in the area by Dean Heffernan's challenge from behind, after the striker had pounced on a stray pass and ran at the Perth rearguard.

Had the spot-kick been awarded, and Wellington scored, they would have been two goals to the good with twenty minutes left to play. Instead, they found themselves back on level terms with nineteen minutes to play, courtesy Mehmet's equaliser, the striker firing unerringly beyond Paston into the far corner of the net after Wellington's defence had failed to deal with a long throw-in from Heffernan.

Cue a grandstand finish, with both goals surviving scares in the time remaining. Dodd and Brown exchanged twenty yard efforts on goal, although the latter's was alone in being on target, despite the fact it was a header from an angled Ifill cross.

Then Paston grew increasingly busier, grabbing Burns' swerving thirty yarder before racing out to clear a confident Lochhead back-pass from distance, despite the fact Smeltz was fast approaching.

Durante then blocked a Mehmet shot after Heffernan had got in behind Vince Lia en route to the by-line, while in stoppage time, Miller robbed the tiring Ifill of possession and combined with Mehmet to present Smeltz with the chance to wrap things up at the death. Paston proved equal to his international team-mate's shot, however, prompting an additional half-hour of play in an effort to determine the outcome.

During the first half of extra time, in which there was plenty of evidence of tired legs and tired minds in both teams, Perth held the upper hand, with Mehmet twice going close either side of a Miller effort which sizzled past Paston's right-hand post.

After the teams turned around, Lochhead spurned a golden chance to set up a goal which would have restored Wellington's advantage in the 108th minute, the overlapping fullback's poor pull-back failing to do justice to the combination play of Ifill and Daniel which prised open Perth's right flank.

It was to prove costly for the visitors, for after substitute Steven McGarry had headed a Howarth free-kick narrowly over the bar, Perth clinched victory in the 112th minute. Vukovic's clearance picked out Howarth, who played a deft one-two with fellow substitute Scott Neville.

His return pass nutmegged Muscat and allowed Howarth to surge through the inside left channel and coolly steer the ball beyond the approaching Paston and into the net - 3-2 Perth, and a clash with either Brisbane Roar or, more likely, Central Coast Mariners, now theirs for the taking.

It was a goal which stunned Wellington, and but for a solid save at the feet of McGarry by Paston two minutes from time, they would have fallen further behind on the scoreboard.

Howarth then blazed over the bar following a neat interchange between Risdon and Miller, before Wellington almost fashioned a dramatic equaliser in the final minute. Paston's raking free-kick picked out Mirjan Pavlovic, the substitute chesting the ball down for fellow replacement Daniel to let fly.

But the Brazilian, on what will almost certainly be his last appearance for the club, snatched at the chance, and sent the ball sailing into "The Shed" end of the ground. By the time the ball had been retrieved and the game had resumed, it was time for referee Green to blow the final whistle, to the delight of the locals, whose 3-2 victory leaves them just one game away from this season's Hyundai A-League Grand Final.

2011/2012 Hyundai A-League - Finals Series
Minor Semi-Final - 4:30 pm, Saturday 7 April, 2012
at East Perth Oval (aka Nib Stadium)

Perth Glory FC 2 (3 AET)
(Bas van den Brink 13', Billy Mehmet 72', Todd Howarth 112')
Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (2 AET)
(Chris Greenacre '47, Manny Muscat '55)

    Crowd: 13,695


    Perth Glory FC :
    Player listing:
    Danny Vukovic (gk); Scott Risdon, Bas van den Brink, Steve Pantelidis, Dean Heffernan; Andrezinho (Todd Howarth +81'), Jacob Burns, Liam Miller, Travis Dodd (Steve McGarry +70'); Shane Smeltz, Billy Mehmet (Scott Neville +109')

    Substitutes not used: tba (rgk)

    Coach: Ian Ferguson

    Yellow Cards: Jacob Burns 52', Liam Miller 57', Todd Howarth 113'
    Red Cards:Nil

    Wellington Phoenix FC :
    Player listing:
    Mark Paston (gk); Manny Muscat, Ben Sigmund (Alex Smith +62'), Andrew Durante, Tony Lochhead; Leo Bertos, Tim Brown, Vince Lia, Danny Sanchez (Daniel da Costa +74'); Paul Ifill, Chris Greenacre (Mirjan Pavlovic +113')

    Substitutes not used: tba (rgk)

    Coach: Ricki Herbert

    Yellow Cards: Manny Muscat 27', Leo Bertos 60', Tim Brown 41'
    Red Cards: Nil

    Referee: Peter Green 6/10
    Assistant Referees: Nathan Macdonald, David Walsh; Fourth official: Joe Fusari

    BOTN Player Points:
    3. Billy Mehmet (PG)
    2. Mark Paston (WP)
    1. Steve Pantelidis (PG)

    Pitch rating: 5/10

    Game rating: 7/10

    Match Report and ratings: 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 implicitly supplied by FFA and used by assumed permission.

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