Hyundai A-League - 2011/2012 - Season 7

Flying start fires Melbourne past Wellington
By Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

2011/2012 Hyundai A-League - Round 11
5:00 pm, Sunday 18 December, 2011
at Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne Victory FC 3
(Archie Thompson 4', og (Vince Lia) 22', Diogo Ferreira 24')

Wellington Phoenix FC 1
(Alax Smith 85')

(linked from FFA web site)

Three goals in the first twenty-five minutes fired Melbourne Victory into what was ultimately a winning position against Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park on December 18, but they should have won by a far greater margin than the 3-1 scoreline they amassed.

Melbourne got off to the perfect start, scoring with the game’s first meaningful attack just four minutes into the contest. Carlos Hernandez picked up the ball on half-way and picked out Archie Thompson, who sprayed the ball wide to Billy Celeski before dashing forward in search of the anticipated cross.

It duly arrived at the near post, where the unmarked Thompson was arriving, and he gleefully directed a glancing header beyond the diving figure of Tony Warner and in off the far post.

Straight from the kick-off, Wellington sought a swift riposte. Tim Brown was inches away with a header from a Leo Bertos cross, while the winger himself went close soon after, Vince Lia winning possession before releasing Bertos with a pass which allowed him to surge towards the edge of the penalty area before letting fly.

Ante Covic parried this effort, but recovered possession before Brown could pounce. Melbourne’s custodian had reason to look on on three further occasions before half-time, with Alex Smith heading a Bertos cross past the far post on the half-hour.

On the stroke of half-time, Bertos delivered a corner beyond the far post for Brown, who headed into the side-netting. The winger then whipped in a cross from the left which targeted Lia, whose hopes of scoring were thwarted by Fabio’s timely headed clearance.

But by this stage, the game was all but over as a contest, with two goals in as many minutes half-way through the first half sending Melbourne out to a three-goal lead. The alarm bells had been ringing since the ninth minute, when a lovely right flank raid featuring Hernandez and Harry Kewell saw Thompson steer a shot beyond Warner but just past the far post.

Kewell was harshly booked for diving on the quarter hour, after going down under Brent Griffiths’ robust challenge in the penalty area, but the former Liverpool star channelled his frustration into plotting Wellington’s downfall seven minutes later.

His raking cross-field ball picked out the overlapping Matthew Foschini’s run down the right, the fullback linking swiftly with Hernandez inside him. The playmaker looked to deliver a cross, but the ball struck the luckless figure of Lia and flew into the net past the wrong-footed figure of Warner.

Still reeling from that blow, Wellington yielded a third goal two minutes later. Lia was caught in possession by Kewell, who stormed down the left before seeing his cross cannon off a defender. The ball wasn’t cleared, and Diogo Ferreira, following up, unleashed an exquisite twenty yard volley into the top near corner - 3-0, and seemingly no way back for the visitors against the league’s draw specialists.

Eight minutes before half-time, Thompson’s fine off-the-ball movement was rewarded by Leigh Bloxham’s pass after Hernandez had sparked another Melbourne raid. The Kiwi-born striker cut inside and swept past Griffiths before curling a shot past the far post.

Four minutes later, Hernandez powered through from half-way before linking with Thompson, who had just Warner to beat. But the goalkeeper stood his ground and blocked Melbourne’s last chance of a vibrant first half over the bar.

The lively nature of the match continued after the interval. Two minutes into the second spell, Wellington came close to pulling a goal back when Smith’s cross was cleared to Bertos, who promptly played in Brown.

Covic smothered this effort, then sat back and watched for the next ten minutes or so as his team-mates carved the visitors apart at will. But quite how Melbourne failed to at least double their tally before the hour mark defies logic!

The chances they missed! A glorious one was spurned in the 49th minute, with Foschini and Adrian Leijer combining to play the ball out of defence to Celeski, who sent Hernandez storming through the inside left channel with just Warner to beat. But his execution let him down badly - a poor finish across the face of goal when he should have at least hit the target.

Unperturbed, Melbourne pressed again, Hernandez delivering a free-kick two minutes later which Kewell, Thompson and Leijer all contrived to fail to make contact with as it arced across the goalmouth, the target yawning invitingly in front of them.

Two further minutes elapsed before Kewell and Hernandez combined on the right, with the latter’s cross being headed into the near post side-netting by Thompson, who, seconds later, combined with Hernandez to make the most of a Griffiths error and send Kewell scurrying clear. Ben Sigmund’s splendidly timed recovering tackle thwarted the striker in the act of shooting.

Kewell has yet to score a goal from open play since his return to his homeland, but how he failed to alter that statistic in the 58th minute only he can explain. Gathering the ball on the right, he jinked inside Griffiths before sweeping past Andrew Durante, Sigmund and Lia before letting fly from the edge of the penalty area.

The run richly merited a goal; the finish did not even begin to do Kewell’s approach play justice. A glorious miss, with the 14,023-strong crowd rising as one to acclaim what would have been a brilliant individual goal, only to produce the loudest collective groan yet heard in this new facility as the ball cleared the crossbar.

Still they pressed, Kewell again the fulcrum, Hernandez the architect. And again, Wellington survived, Sigmund and Warner combining to deny the 2005 European Cup winner on the hour.

Soon after, Bertos offered some signs of Wellington resistance, beating three on a jinking run into the area before dragging a shot past the near post. Covic’s goal-kick found its way to Hernandez, who instantly invited Thompson to run at the visitors’ punch-drunk rearguard once more. Warner again blocked the effort to safety.

A 63rd minute clash of heads between Ivan Franjic and Nick Ward left the Wellington player decidedly dazed, so the visitors opted to change things around, and were the better for the alterations coach Ricki Herbert made, for they began to take the game to Melbourne again.

Soon afterwards, Brown linked with one of the substitutes, Daniel Cortes, who found Smith on the far post with a cross which the well-performed striker - Wellington’s star turn on the day - headed into the side-netting.

Seconds later, Dani Sanchez teamed up with Smith to pick out Mirjan Pavlovic, whose glancing header crept past the far post, and sparked another Melbourne attack, Covic’s goal-kick inviting Hernandez to unleash a sixty-yard pass which sent Kewell careering through on goal. Warner raced out of his area to clear off the striker’s toes.

Wellington’s custodian smothered a shot from the visitors’ former star, Marco Rojas, thirteen minutes from time, after which Celeski committed his second bookable offence of the game to leave Melbourne with just ten players on the park for the remainder of the match.

There was just one team in the contest in the final ten minutes. And after Daniel’s curling effort had been denied by Covic, Wellington dragged themselves back into the contest in the 84th minute.

It was due reward for their best move of the match, which featured Lia, Sigmund, and a slick one-two between Smith and Daniel which saw the former race around his team-mate for the return pass before jinking inside an opponent and, with the outside of his right foot, bending a beauty beyond Covic into the far corner of the net - 3-1.

Surely Melbourne couldn’t snatch another draw from the jaws of victory, and throw away a three-goal advantage in the process? They certainly tried to, with Durante and Sanchez combining for Bertos to produce a fingertip save by Covic three minutes from time.

But time was Wellington’s enemy, and Melbourne held out for a 3-1 victory which lifted them above the beaten team into fifth place on goal difference. Their winning margin should have been far greater, however - make no mistake!

2011/2012 Hyundai A-League - Round 11
5:00 pm, Sunday 18 December, 2011
at Melbourne Football Stadium

    Crowd: 14,023


    Melbourne Victory FC :
    Player listing:
    Covic (gk); Foschini, Leijer, Fabio, Franjic; Ferreira, Hernandez (Allsopp, 72), Broxham (booked, 29), Celeski (booked, 19, 78 - sent-off); Kewell (booked, 15) (Cernak, 82), Thompson (Rojas, 76)

    Substitutes not used: tba

    Coach: Mehmet Durakovic

    Yellow Cards: Billy Celeski 19', Harry Kewell 14', Leigh Broxham 29'
    Red Cards:Billy Celeski 78'

    Wellington Phoenix FC :
    Player listing:
    Warner (gk); Muscat, Durante, Sigmund, Griffiths (Daniel +63'); Ward (Sanchez +67'), Lia, Brown, Bertos; Greenacre (Pavlovic +63'), Smith

    Substitutes not used: Imray (rgk)

    Coach: Ricki Herbert

    Yellow Cards: Nil
    Red Cards: Nil

    Referee: Matt Gillett 6/10
    Assistant Referees: Luke Brennan, Hakan Anaz; Fourth official: Alex Azcurra

    BOTN Player Points:
    > 3. Carlos Hernandez (MV)
    2. Alex Smith (WP)
    1. Harry Kewell (MV)

    Pitch rating: 7/10

    Game rating: 8/10

    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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