Hyundai A-League - 2012/2013 - Season 8

Disappointment For Del Piero
As Wellington Win Well
By Jeremy Ruane
Courtesy of www.sportswebsoccer.com

2012/2013 Hyundai A-League - Round 1
7:30pm, 06 October, 2012
at Wellington Stadium, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Huysegems 43', Louis Fenton 75')
defeated
Sydney FC 0

Wellington Phoenix opened their Hyundai A-League account for the 2012-13 season in eye-catching style at Westpac Stadium on 6 October, comfortably accounting for a poorly performed Sydney FC combination by a 2-0 scoreline, to the undisguised delight of 12,057 partisan locals.

Not even the undoubted talent of former FIFA World Cup winner Alessandro Del Piero could galvanise the visitors, as the much-hyped Sydney team - not for the first time in A-League history, it must be said - failed to walk the talk, instead proving themselves to once again be all style, no substance.

Admittedly, that’s a tad harsh on Del Piero, the undoubted ace in their pack. Sadly for the Italian, the vast majority of his team-mates, on this performance, aren’t fit to lace the boots of the two-time European Cup winner, a craftsman who found himself being forced to work with blunt tools on the day in any season when expectations are at their highest.

Ricki Herbert’s side, in contrast, have largely kept their own counsel in the pre-season publicity stakes. Not for them the headline-grabbing acquisition and the red carpet treatment such signings attract, not when minor tweaks and subtle fine-tuning are all that is required to maintain their competitive edge.

The core of their team from the past few seasons remains intact, and that greater degree of familiarity with each other’s play was evident from the outset in this match, which Wellington dominated from referee Peter Green’s opening whistle despite the slippery surface on which players of both teams were soon stumbling.

Their first genuine threat came in the eighth minute, Leo Bertos’ corner to the near post being met by Alex Smith’s bullet header. Ivan Necevski’s fine parried save enabled Sydney to partially scramble the ball clear, but only as far as Wellington debutant Louis Fenton, who fizzed a twenty-yarder over the bar.

Four minutes later, the young newcomer repeated the shot, this time with far greater accuracy, after being picked out by Smith. Necevski dived to his left to keep out the top corner-bound effort, before Del Piero’s first contribution to the A-League saw him do Manny Muscat a treat prior to lashing a shot on the run over the bar in the fourteenth minute.

Wellington’s response, from the resulting goal-kick, should have seen them open the scoring. Fine work in limited space by Fenton saw him unhinge four opponents before touching the ball back to Tony Lochhead, whose cross was flicked on by another debutant, former Belgian international striker Stein Huysegems.

The beneficiary of his header was another Wellington debutant, but one who is no stranger to A-League action. Jeremy Brockie found himself in space inside the penalty area with just Necevski to beat, but the striker volleyed wildly over from fifteen yards - better was expected, particularly from a position where hitting the target and forcing the ‘keeper to attempt a save should be the minimum requirement.

Much that was good about Wellington’s play featured Fenton. In the 21st minute, he picked out Brockie with a cross which saw the striker’s shot blocked by team-mate Stein Huysegems. The striker controlled the ball deftly, then beat an opponent before Adam Griffiths’ intervention.

Relief for Sydney was short-lived, however, for a poor clearance presented Fenton with the ball again seconds later. This time, his cross picked out the shaven-headed Belgian, who sent his header over the bar.

Fenton was in again in the 24th minute, wrong-footing two opponents before shooting tamely at Necevski, who was beaten all ends up two minutes later as Wellington again found themselves in a position to open the scoring.

Brockie played the ball wide to Fenton, who took on the defence before returning the ball to the striker. He played a slick one-two with Huysegems inside Sydney’s penalty area before drawing a challenge which allowed another Wellington newcomer, Benjamin Totori, to appear on the scene.

Striding onto Brockie’s pass, the Solomon Islands striker thumped a rasping drive against the post, the same upright which Huysegems struck two minutes later, albeit from an offside position.

Wellington deservedly had the ball in the net in the 32nd minute, but captain Andrew Durante’s celebrations were cut short, referee Green spotting a foul by Sigmund on Necevski as Lochhead’s free-kick arced towards the far post.

The home team was well on top by this time, and in the 34th minute, Huysegems should have afforded them the advantage on the scoreboard. Durante played the ball wide to Lochhead, whose nicely weighted cross allowed the striker to beat Sydney defender Trent McClenahan in the air.

Sadly for Wellington, his header lacked accuracy, prompting Sydney to surge downfield and fire a warning shot across the home team’s bows. Inevitably, Del Piero was at the heart of the move, the Italian forcing a corner which he pinged into the goalmouth. McClenahan’s diving header flashed past the post from six yards.

Wellington heeded the warning, and two minutes before half-time, responded in style. Muscat - industry personified throughout - broke up a Sydney passing interchange on half-way and played the ball through early, releasing Huysegems through the offside trap. The Belgian calmly controlled the ball before finishing unerringly beyond the advancing Necevski - 1-0.

That stirred Sydney’s passions no end, and they came close to levelling the scores before the interval. Fabio Alves played the ball forward to Del Piero, who held it up well before playing it back to Mitchell Mallia.

He somehow wriggled through three challenges in Wellington’s penalty area before seeing his angled drive tipped round the post by the flying figure of Mark Paston, who was hitherto unoccupied throughout the first half, and was to be largely untroubled throughout the second spell as well.

The latter half of the match began in scrappy fashion, with neither team imposing themselves on proceedings. One substitution changed all that, however, with Wellington unleashing Paul Ifill on proceedings just after the hour mark.

His impact was instant - within sixty seconds, he’d forced Necevski to save with his legs after a delicious cross from Lochhead had seen Brockie and Alves dispute possession in the air, with the ball dropping invitingly for Ifill to swivel and shoot from ten yards.

The shot stirred Wellington from their seeming slumber, and they proceeded to grab the game by the scruff of the neck once more. Necevski was flapping like a windmill as the ball came at him from all angles in the minutes which followed, after Brockie had seen a shot blocked having initially lost, on the edge of the penalty area, control of a ball gifted him by some sub-standard Sydney defending.

Brockie and Fenton both somehow failed to get on the end of a Bertos cross in the 68th minute, while an untimely slip by Necevski, as McClenahan played the ball back to him, saw the ‘keeper scrambling to clear the danger before the fast-chasing former Newcastle Jets marksman could capitalise on the situation.

Wellington continued to press, Huysegems seeing a volley blocked after a deep corner from Ifill had been headed back across goal by Sigmund in the 71st minute. Seconds later, Necevski did well to keep out a swerving twenty-five yarder from Muscat as the home team piled on the pressure in search of a second goal.

They survived a wee scare in the 73rd minute when Paston was forced to block at the feet of both Ali Abbas and Joel Chianese, but with fifteen minutes to go, the game was up for Sydney, whose poor passing throughout this match was a significant contributor to their downfall.

On this occasion, Muscat won possession on half-way and strode purposefully into Sydney’s half, biding his time on the ball before delivering an inch-perfect cross to reward Fenton’s perfectly timed run into the penalty area. The youngster met the ball with a full-length diving header which fair flew past Necevski en route to the corner of the net - 2-0, and a richly deserved two-goal cushion at that.

Sydney briefly attempted to fight their way back into the contest, Del Piero getting the better of both Muscat and Sigmund before curling a twenty yarder narrowly wide in the 77th minute, before linking with substitute Sebastian Ryall six minutes later to present Yairo Yau with a shooting chance which the Panamanian should have hit the target with.

Instead, he dragged his shot well wide of the mark, after which the game quietly drew to its conclusion, save for a last-gasp attempt by Wellington to score an emphatic third goal.

Brockie and Smith worked a one-two on the right, with the former darting inside, only to hold onto the ball for far too long before slipping it into Ifill’s stride. By the time the pass was executed, Necevski was in a position to block at the striker’s feet and ensure Sydney headed west with only a two-goal beating to ponder upon. Wellington’s winning margin should have been greater.



2012/2013 Hyundai A-League - Round 1
7:30pm, 06 October, 2012
at Wellington Stadium, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Huysegems 43', Louis Fenton 75')
defeated
Sydney FC 0

    Crowd: 12,057

    MATCH STATS:

    Wellington Phoenix FC :
    Player listing:
    Paston; Bertos, Sigmund, Durante, Lochhead; Totori (Ifill, 61), Muscat, Smith, Fenton (Boyd, 77); Brockie, Huysegems (Clarke, 88)
    Substitutes not used: tba

    Coach: Ricky Herbert

    Yellow Cards:
    Red Cards: Nil

    Sydney FC :
    Player listing:
    Necevski; Emerton, Griffiths, McClenahan, Alves; McFlynn (booked, 47), Lovrek (Yau, 59), Antonis (booked, 19) (Abbas, 59); Mallia, Del Piero, Chianese (Ryall, 80)
    Substitutes not used: tba

    Coach: Ian Crook

    Yellow Cards:
    Red Cards: NIl


    Referee: Peter Green 7/10
    Assistant Referees: Jan Hendrik Hintz, Ashley Beecham; 4th Official: Matt Conger

    BOTN Player Points:
    > 3. Manny Muscat (WP)
    2. Louis Fenton (WP)
    1. Stein Huysegems (WP)

    Pitch rating: 6/10

    Game rating: 6/10

    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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