Hyundai A-League - 2011/2012 - Season 7

Christmas comes early for Wellington fans
By Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

2011/2012 Hyundai A-League - Round 12+
7:30pm, Friday 23 December, 2011
at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 5
(Dani Sanchez 15', 33, Chris Greenacre 38', Mirjan Pavlovic 76, 73')
Newcastle Jets FC 2
(Byun Sung-Hwan 50, Ryan Griffiths 88')

(linked from FFA web site)

Wellington Phoenix produced one of their best-ever Hyundai A-League displays at on 23 December to give the 6,471 fans present the very best of Christmas presents, as they battered Newcastle Jets 5-2 at Westpac Stadium.

While Wellington, sporting five positional changes, were very good indeed, their guests were anything but. Newcastle plumbed the depths throughout the first half of this encounter, one which was dominated by the whistle of referee Ben Williams - necessarily, mind, as niggly fouls galore were committed by both teams.

Initially, it was Newcastle who threatened, a tidy fifth minute move featuring Ruben Zadkovich and Ben Kantarovski culminating in the otherwise anonymous Francis Jeffers wriggling into the penalty area on the right, at which point he found himself thwarted by Andrew Durante’s timely tackle.

Wellington gradually got into the contest, its stop-start nature notwithstanding, and opened the scoring in the sixteenth minute with a fine goal. Vince Lia played the ball across to Durante, who sprayed the ball wide to Manny Muscat, the overlapping left-back instantly volleying the ball inside to Daniel, whose deft lob dropped invitingly into the stride of Dani Sanchez, surging through from midfield. An unerring finish.

Newcastle never recovered from the blow. Their track record in Wellington - one win in seven visits - never looked like being improved upon, and the home team took full advantage to ensure that, come the final whistle, that record would read one in eight.

Ben Kennedy, Newcastle’s generally poorly performed ‘keeper, blocked a Chris Greenacre effort with his legs in the 25th minute, while four minutes later, Sanchez tried an audacious Xabi Alonso-like chip of the visiting ‘keeper from inside his own half of the centre circle. Kennedy cowered as the ball brushed the back of the net, but, sadly for Wellington, the wrong side of it.

Two minutes more had elapsed when Alex Smith sprayed the ball wide to Leo Bertos, who found Muscat steaming up inside him, and duly fed the fullback. He, too, tried to chip Kennedy, but from a far tighter angle. The ball cleared the angle of bar and near post.

Wellington had their tails up, though, and sensed there were more goals here for the scoring. Lia linked with Daniel, who jinked inside a defender and let fly from thirty yards with a shot which took a wicked deflection off Greenacre. Kennedy was relieved to see it clear the crossbar by not a lot!

But from the resulting goal-kick, the natives were celebrating once more. Muscat gathered the ball in the centre circle and promptly picked out the run of Sanchez through the inside left channel. The Spaniard lured Kennedy out of his goal, then promptly stuck the ball between his legs - 2-0, in the 34th minute.

There was no way back for the visitors from this, and Tim Brown squandered a glorious chance to make it three seconds later, shooting straight at Kennedy after being picked out by Daniel - without question, the game’s star turn.

Six minutes before half-time, and with Newcastle’s defence all at sea, Wellington got that third goal they craved. Bertos was the architect, brilliantly dribbling through four challenges in an all-too-brief exhibition of wing play at its finest, before delivering a cross which found birthday boy Greenacre diving to meet it on the edge of the six-yard box.

Newcastle briefly threatened before the half-time whistle when Sung-Hwan Byun’s free-kick beyond the far post proved too high for the recalled - but clearly far from match-fit - Nikolai Topor-Stanley to reach, his valiant effort to do so notwithstanding.

But Wellington responded straight away, and came desperately close to a fourth goal. Daniel and Bertos linked on the right before the latter picked out Brown, who touched the ball back into the stride of the Brazilian. Daniel directed his drive straight at Kennedy.

Newcastle coach Gary Van Egmond understandably read the riot act to his charges at half-time, and introduced Michael Bridges and Jeremy Brockie to the fray for the second spell - quite why both were on the bench to begin with is another matter entirely!

Initially, they made an impact, with Newcastle pulling a goal back just six minutes into the second spell. Byun’s twenty yard free-kick - which should never have been awarded by whistle-happy referee Williams, the ball clearly striking Durante’s chest and not his arm - arced over the wall and beyond the diving figure of the hitherto unoccupied Tony Warner.

That made the score 3-1, and offered the visitors hope of making an unlikely comeback - they were certainly a more competitive side in the early stages of the half. Those hopes proved forlorn, however, as within four minutes of letting in that goal, Wellington were on the prowl with an eye towards restoring their three-goal cushion.

Daniel and Durante - what was he doing beyond the half-way line? - stormed down the left, with the latter charging towards the by-line before checking his run and inviting his team-mate to deliver a sumptuous cross which found Brown flying through the heart of Newcastle’s defence. His header flashed inches over the bar.

Four minutes later, Daniel whipped in a corner which Ben Sigmund headed inches past the far post. Kennedy then blundered following the resulting goal-kick, gifting possession to Greenacre, but the striker was unable to capitalise as the ‘keeper recovered possession more by good luck than good fortune.

Zadkovich was the lone Newcastle player who can honestly say he did justice to the shirt over the course of the ninety minutes, with his thirty yard free-kick in the 67th minute leaving Warner rooted to the spot as it sizzled past the far post.

Wellington’s ‘keeper launched the resulting goal-kick downfield, and Topor-Stanley promptly gifted the ball to Sanchez - well, it is Christmas! The hat-trick-hunting midfielder stormed forward, Newcastle captain Tiago Calvano forcing him away from goal but unable to prevent Sanchez from unleashing an angled shot which Kennedy smothered.

Back came Newcastle, Byun’s corner headed narrowly wide by Topor-Stanley, who was withdrawn from the fray soon after by a clearly unhappy Van Egmond - talk about if looks could kill when player passed manager in the technical area!

Not helping matters, of course, was Topor-Stanley’s tame contribution to the home team’s fourth goal of the game, which came in the 74th minute. The outstanding Daniel gathered the ball on the left and charged towards the target, Wellington substitute Mirjan Pavlovic initially charging forward in support, only to find himself hopelessly offside.

Daniel had the presence of mind to retain possession while his team-mate recovered his ground, however, and when he had done so, the Brazilian, despite being surrounded by visiting players, slipped a pass across to Pavlovic which left the striker one-on-one with the advancing figure of Kennedy - a cool finish made it 4-1.

Within three minutes, the same player extended Wellington’s advantage still further, his bullet header meeting Daniel’s corner on the edge of the six yard box, seconds after Bertos had been felled just inside the penalty area by Byun. For once, referee Williams managed to contain his natural tendency to disrupt the flow of proceedings - the one occasion when his whistle wouldn’t have been met with derision and scorn …

At 5-1, the game was well and truly over as a contest, and Wellington eased off the throttle a touch. Three minutes from time, however, they contrived a super move which deserved a sixth goal, Muscat and Brown executing a one-two which saw the Maltese international spray play wide to Pavlovic. His low cross was stabbed wide of the near post by Greenacre - the move merited better fate.

Newcastle’s response saw them reduce the deficit a minute from time, Byun’s corner being met by a thumping header from Ryan Griffiths - 5-2. And in stoppage time, the shaven-headed figure of Zadkovich started and finished the game’s very last move by directing a header straight at Warner.

It was a late flurry from a poor team - Newcastle were very disappointing, unlike Wellington, who achieved this emphatic result despite the absence of injured talisman Paul Ifill. In Daniel, Sanchez, Muscat and Bertos, they had four players who rose to the challenge in admirable fashion, and the outcome was a Christmas bonus for their fans to savour.

2011/2012 Hyundai A-League - Round 12+
7:30pm, Friday 23 December, 2011
at Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 5
(Dani Sanchez 15', 33, Chris Greenacre 38', Mirjan Pavlovic 76, 73')
Newcastle Jets FC 2
(Byun Sung-Hwan 50', Ryan Griffiths 88')

    Crowd: 6,471


    Wellington Phoenix FC :
    Player listing:
    20 Tony Warner (gk), 2. Manny Muscat, 6. Tim Brown, 7. Leo Bertos, 9. Chris Greenacre, 11. Daniel de Cortes (19. Jamie Downey 82'), 17. Vince Lia, 18. Ben Sigmund, 21. Dani Sanchez (14. Mirjan Pavlovic +69'), 22. Andrew Durante (c), 24. Alex Smith

    Substitutes not used: 1. Mark Paston (rgk), 4. Brent Griffiths

    Coach: Ricki Herbert

    Yellow Cards: Andrew DURANTE 41', Vince LIA 46', Alex SMITH 65'
    Red Cards: Nil

    Newcastle Jets FC :
    Player listing:
    1. Ben KENNEDY (gk), 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (2. Taylor REGAN +75'), 5. Tiago CALVANO, 6. Ben KANTAROVSKI, 10. Ruben ZADKOVICH. 11. Tarek ELRICH, 13. BYUN Sung-Hwan, 20. Jacob PEPPER, 22. Ali ABBAS (8. Jeremy BROCKIE +46'), 23. Ryan GRIFFITHS, 24. Francis JEFFERS (9. Michael BRIDGES +46')

    Substitutes not used: 19. Matthew NASH (rgk)

    Coach: Gary van Egmond

    Yellow Cards: Ben KANTAROVSKI 41', Ali ABBAS 41, Tiago CALVANO 79'
    Red Cards:Nil

    Referee: Ben Williams 3/10
    Assistants: Brad Hobson, Mark Rule; Fourth Official: Matthew Conger

    BOTN Player Points:
    > 3. Daniel de Costa (WP)
    2. Dani Sanchez (WP)
    1. Manny Muscat (WP)

    Pitch rating: 8/10

    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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