Hyundai A-League - 2011/2012 - Season 7

Wellington go second after breaking Melbourne heart
By Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

2011/2012 Hyundai A-League - Round 17
4:30 pm, Sunday 29 January, 2012
at Westpac Stadium Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 3
(Paul Ifill 3', 64', Chris Greenacre 54')
Melbourne Heart FC 1
(Alex Terra 34')

(linked from FFA web site)

Wellington Phoenix climbed to the hitherto uncharted territory of second place in the Hyundai A-League on 29 January after humbling Melbourne Heart 3-1 at Westpac Stadium, to the delight of a bumper 13,601-strong crowd.

It took just 123 seconds for the home team to hit their straps. Dani Sanchez fed Tony Lochhead on the left, and the fullback pinged a cross to the far post which Aziz Behich, in his eagerness to head clear, directed straight to the feet of Paul Ifill.

The striker wrong-footed the befuddled fullback and calmly stroked the ball beyond the exposed figure of Clint Bolton into the far corner of a goal which Wellington with gusto twice more during the next five minutes.

Bolton smothered Tim Brown’s twenty yarder after Manny Muscat’s surging run and shot had been blocked, while in the seventh minute, Lochhead deftly picked the pocket of Melbourne’s Mate Dugandzic before taking on the defence prior to picking out Ifill beyond the far post.

As with the goal, the scorer left Behich bemused via his sleight of foot, which was supplemented by a cheeky chip towards the target from an acute angle. Bolton was relieved to see the ball land on the roof of the net after it had arced over his head.

The visitors struggled to regather their bearings after Wellington’s whirlwind start, but gradually began to discover their rhythm and enjoyed the better of the exchanges throughout the remainder of the half.

But they could have fallen further behind in the 23rd minute, when a Leo Bertos corner picked out the head of Andrew Durante. Wellington’s captain directed the ball towards the target, but Eli Babalj was perfectly placed by the far post to head off the line.

Babalj was soon in action at the other end of the park, as Melbourne mounted their first attack of consequence. Dugandzic led the charge, before feeding the overlapping figure of Michael Marrone. His cross to the far post was intended for Babalj, but Muscat, fresh off the plane after a week spent in Melbourne on paternity leave, was perfectly placed to head clear.

The fullback and his colleagues couldn’t contain the visitors in the 37th minute, however, and it was Behich, eager to make amends for his part in Melbourne’s horror start to proceedings, who was instrumental in setting up the equaliser.

Working a one-two with Matt Thompson, the fullback’s slide-rule pass through the inside-left channel invited Alex Terra to stride onto the ball, and the Brazilian placed a first-time angled shot across the previously untested Mark Paston into the far corner of the net.

Wellington’s response to this setback was very much like that of the England team after Sir Alf Ramsey had spoken to them on the Wembley pitch at the conclusion of ninety minutes’ action in the 1966 World Cup Final - “You’ve won it once. Go and win it again”.

That’s exactly what they did. Just as they did at the start of the first half, they tore into Melbourne with a vengeance at the start of the second spell, coming close to regaining the lead in the 48th minute.

Paston threw the ball out to Lochhead, whose pass to Ifill saw the marksman lob the ball over the defence for Sanchez to surge onto before whipping in a low cross intended for Brown.

Brendan Hamill mopped up the danger on this occasion, but was powerless to prevent the seemingly inevitable from materialising in the 54th minute. Durante switched play to Bertos, who put the after-burners on and tore down the right at a great rate of knots, Behich left in his wake as the winger hurtled into the danger zone.

Given the pace at which he was running, the cross Bertos delivered to the near post was simply sublime. Two retreating Melbourne defenders, as well as Bolton, appeared to be favourites to see off the threat it posed, but none of them reckoned on the sheer determination and bravery of Chris Greenacre, who somehow found a way through to head home a classic striker’s goal with gusto.

2-1 Wellington, and how the crowd loved it! They wanted more, and their charges did their level best to oblige. Just three minutes after taking the lead, Sanchez brilliantly beat three players with a darting run from half-way before a lay-off to Muscat allowed Ifill to be brought into play.

The striker stood up Marrone an absolute treat before letting fly with a shot which Bolton needed two attempts to save at his near post, although he had no idea where the ball had gone after making his initial block.

The visitors looked to arrest Wellington’s progress on the hour via a neat one-two on the left twixt Dugandzic and Behich. The former then drifted in-field before setting up Babalj for a twenty-five yard strike which sizzled past Paston’s right-hand post - the ‘keeper, incredibly, hadn’t yet been called upon to produce a save in the match.

And after Wellington increased their lead in the 64th minute, the prospects of him doing so receded further. Sanchez switched play to Muscat on the right, and the fullback beat an opponent before slipping the ball inside him to Ifill.

His darting angled run took him round the advancing Bolton, and provided enough space to execute a classy finish, steering the ball beyond the retreating defenders and into the far corner of the net to give Wellington a 3-1 lead which Melbourne never looked like retrieving.

The sight of Bertos being stretchered from the field with an ankle injury thirteen minutes from time was a concerning one for the home team, but his replacement, Daniel, made one heck of an impact with seven minutes remaining.

He was crudely chopped down by Simon Colosimo, seconds after a blatant hand-ball offence by Curtis Good - bookable offences both, but ones which saw referee Peter Green incredibly keep his cards in his pocket. (You can guarantee another referee wouldn’t have been so lenient, hence the ongoing demand for consistent application of the Laws of the Game by those charged with doing so).

Daniel picked himself up, dusted himself down, and promptly unleashed all of his frustration into the thirty yard free-kick which the referee had awarded in response to Colosimo’s “tackle”.

Hit with pulverising power, the ball soared over the wall and the diving figure of Bolton only to crash against the ‘keeper’s left-hand upright. Greenacre was onto the rebound in an instant, and set up Brown for a tap-in on the far post, only for the midfielder to see his attempt to administer the coup de grace denied by the offside flag.

There was still time for Paston to produce his only save of the match - the ‘keeper plunged to his left to deny Babalj after Behich and Terra had worked an opening down the left - but the game had long been over as a contest by this time, Wellington’s dominant 3-1 victory propelling them into second spot on the standings, and into the minds of the masses as genuine play-off contenders.

2011/2012 Hyundai A-League - Round 17
4:30 pm, Sunday 29 January, 2012
at Westpac Stadium Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 3
(Paul Ifill 3', 64', Chris Greenacre 54')
Melbourne Heart FC 1
(Alex Terra 34')

    Crowd: 13,601


    Wellington Phoenix FC :
    Player listing:
    Paston (gk); Muscat, Sigmund, Durante, Lochhead; Smith, Brown, Sanchez (Downey +82'); Bertos (Daniel +77'), Greenacre, Ifill
    Substitutes not used: tba

    Coach: Ricki Herbert

    Yellow Cards: Bertos 47'
    Red Cards: Nil

    Melbourne Heart FC :
    Player listing:
    Bolton (gk); Marrone, Hamill (Colosimo +65'), Good, Behich; Dugandzic (Williams +68'), Germano, Sarkies, Thompson (Worm +55'), Terra; Babalj
    Substitutes not used: tba

    Coach: John van’t Schip

    Yellow Cards: Nil
    Red Cards:Nil

    Referee: Peter Green 4/10
    Assistant Referees: Glen Lochrie, Jan Hendrik Hintz ; Fourth official: Matthew Conger

    BOTN Player Points:
    > 3. Paul Ifill (WP)
    2. Leo Bertos (WP)
    1. Dani Sanchez (WP)

    Pitch rating: 8/10

    Game rating: 5/10

    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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