Dour draw the outcome in Long-Distance Derby

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League 2013/14 Season, Round 5
5:30pm, Saturday 9 November, 2013 – AMI Stadium, Christchurch

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Andrew Durante 4′)
drew with
Perth Glory FC 1 (Ryo Nagai 29′)

The Hyundai A-League’s “long-distance derby” offered little in the way of inspiring football at Christchurch’s AMI Stadium on 9 November, as 9,671 fans watched Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory cancel each other out in a dour 1-1 draw.

The game couldn’t have got off to a better start, with Wellington opening the scoring just 210 seconds after the kick-off. Carlos Hernandez flighted in a free-kick from the left which saw Perth’s defence deceived by Ben Sigmund’s darting run across them.

That meant Andrew Durante was completely unmarked on the far post as the ball arrived there, and it duly struck Wellington’s captain, ricocheting off him over the line to give the home team the early advantage, and bring to an end Perth’s near-five hour spell without conceding a goal – they were just thirty seconds shy of reaching that milestone.

Perth eventually responded to the early setback, first threatening in the fourteenth minute when Louis Fenton’s timely tackle thwarted the progress of Sidnei Sciola Moraes into the penalty area. Steven McGarry’s resulting corner was headed past the far post by Steve Pantelidis.

After Jacob Burns’ deflected twenty-five yarder had been dealt with by Glen Moss, Sciola Moraes picked out the outstanding Scott Jamieson on the left. The fullback’s nineteenth minute cross to the far post was headed back across goal by McGarry to Ryo Nagai, who was unable to connect with an overhead kick on the edge of the goal area.

Wellington failed to heed the warning, and two minutes later, Jamieson was in again, exploiting Fenton’s shortcomings as a fullback once more. Nagai missed his cross this time, with Durante preventing McGarry from capitalising on the opportunity.

McGarry’s corner picked out Michael Thwaite, whose near post header flashed over the bar in the 22nd minute, four minutes after which Wellington mustered their first attack of note since the goal.

Durante, Stein Huysegems and Hernandez combined, with the last-mentioned’s cross-field ball finding Jeremy Brockie in space on the right. He jinked inside before sending a rising twenty-yarder over Danny Vukovic’s crossbar.

Perth netted a deserved equaliser in the 29th minute, and it was no surprise that it came about from the absence, yet again, of Fenton, Wellington’s right-back in name only. Cameron Edwards, McGarry and Jamieson combined to send Sciola Moraes storming down the left, with Sigmund having to race back in an effort to cover the winger’s progress.

Unsurprisingly, the Brazilian winger was too nimble of foot for the Kiwi stopper, who was cleverly out-manoeuvred in the penalty area by Sciola Moraes before the Perth player steered the ball into Nagai’s stride. 

His shot across the retreating Wellington rearguard completely wrong-footed Moss and arrowed into the bottom right-hand corner of the net – 1-1, and deservedly so from Perth’s perspective.

Straight from the kick-off, Huysegems and Hernandez stormed downfield, restoring Wellington’s advantage their objective. The Costa Rican’s chipped pass found Vinnie Lia, racing up in support, in full flight as he reached the penalty area, quite literally. The midfielder’s diving header flashed past the far post by not a lot – it deserved better.

Three minutes later, Hernandez squandered a glorious chance to put Wellington back in front when firing a twenty-five yard free-kick over the bar from directly in front of goal, after Lia had been tripped by Thwaite.

After this, the game became a bit of an arm wrestle, both teams tending to cancel each other out. Perth engineered the last chance of the half on the stroke of half-time, with Nagai playing the ball wide to Jamieson, whose curling cross was volleyed over by McGarry.

Wellington coach Ernie Merrick takes no prisoners when he considers things need changing, so after his first half display, it was no surprise to see Fenton fail to emerge for the second spell. Jason Hicks took the park instead, with Manny Muscat stepping into his old role at right back, where his performance nullified the impact of Sciola Moraes.

Hicks was swift to make an impact, taking just three minutes to be part of an enterprising Wellington raid which also featured Albert Riera, Brockie, Lia, Hernandez, Huysegems and Reece Caira, whose progress into the penalty area was abruptly halted by Matthew Davies’ timely tackle.

After this threat, the arm wrestle nature of the game resumed, but after Moss had gathered a Sciola Moraes header following Davies’ 57th minute cross, Hicks spurned a glorious chance to give Wellington the lead just after the hour mark.

Sigmund’s header forward found Hernandez, whose sharp turn and accurate pass released Brockie down the right. His cross to the far post found Hicks arriving in acres of space, but the substitute sent his first-time volley soaring high, wide and far from handsomely into the stands – a bad miss!

Wellington introduced Paul Ifill to the fray soon after, and with his first touch, on receipt of another Brockie cross following Hernandez’s cleared corner, the Barbados international set up Sigmund for a bullet header from six yards. Much to the defender’s frustration, he directed the ball agonisingly past the far post.

After Moss had capably dealt with a thirty yard free-kick from McGarry, Sigmund directed another header narrowly past the upright, this time on receipt of an absolute gem of a Hernandez free-kick which found that corridor of uncertainty between Vukovic and his defenders – ‘twas another let-off for Perth.

The visitors came back well, however, Davies lashing one past the post on the volley after Nagai had made in-roads down the right fourteen minutes from time. Five minutes later, substitute Jamie MacLaren spurned an even better chance for the visitors.

This one was engineered by Pantelidis, who surged forward over half-way before slipping a pass through Wellington’s defence which allowed MacLaren to breach the offside trap. Moss hurtled out and forced the newcomer away from goal, and his snatched shot sailed harmlessly past the near post of the untended net.

Perth finished the stronger of the two sides, and only a smart save low to his left by Moss prevented substitute Brandon O’Neill from netting a late winner for the visitors a minute from time, after McGarry and Pantelidis had worked a one-two on the right.

Then in stoppage time, Sciola Moraes was thwarted by the combined challenge of Durante and Sigmund, after MacLaren and O’Neill had combined to prise open the rearguard of a Wellington team which won’t play again for a fortnight due to New Zealand’s FIFA World Cup two-legged qualifier against Mexico, a tie which certainly overshadowed this fixture.

Thankfully for the All Whites’ prospects, Brockie, Durante, Moss, Sigmund, Smeltz and reserve goalkeeper Jacob Spoonley came through unscathed, and virtually an hour after the final whistle were boarding a flight from Christchurch Airport to Auckland en route to Los Angeles, where Ricki Herbert’s charges are gathering prior to Thursday morning’s sold-out clash with the Mexicans at the Azteca Stadium.

One hopes that match, and the second leg at Westpac Stadium on 20 November, will provide more inspiring fare than was served in this “long-distance derby”, for memorable this was not.

Match Stats
Crowd: 9,671

Wellington Phoenix FC: Moss (gk); Fenton (Hicks +46′), Sigmund, Durante, Caira; Muscat, Riera (Ifill, 66), Lia; Brockie, Hernandez, Huysegems (Boyd +79′ (booked, 83′))

Perth Glory FC: Vukovic (booked, 75); Davies, Pantelidis, Thwaite, Jamieson (booked, 72); Burns, McGarry, C. Edwards (R. Edwards +54′); Nagai (O’Neill, 83), Smeltz (MacLaren +54′), Sciola Moraes

Points and ratings:
Referee: Alan Milliner 5/10
Game 4/10
Pitch 7/10

3. Scott Jamieson (PG)
2 . Carlos Hernandez (WP)
1. Albert Riera (WP)