Keepers star as champs edge Wellington
by Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com
A-League Season 2013-14, Round 6 (deferred)
Thursday 19 December 2013, 7:30pm, North Sydney Oval
Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (Storm Roux 27′)
Wellington Phoenix FC 0
It was a night for goalkeepers to shine at North Sydney Oval on Thursday December 19, as reigning Hyundai A-League champions Central Coast Mariners edged Wellington Phoenix 1-0 in front of 6,755 fans to extend the visitors’ unwelcome winless sequence to ten games this season.
They certainly had their chances to right that statistical wrong, but came across, in Central Coast custodian Liam Reddy, a goalkeeper in fine form. So, too, was his opposite number, Glen Moss, who pulled off what is certain to be a very strong contender for the save of the season early in the second half to prevent Wellington from falling further behind, the home team having scored the game’s only goal just shy of the half-hour mark.
There was little between the teams in the opening stages, with both taking the time to get to grips with a North Sydney Oval playing surface rarely used for footballing purposes these days, the venue having been the home of Northern Spirit FC in the later years of Australia’s National Soccer League a decade ago.
Nowadays, a cricket wicket occupies the centre of this famous venue, one which has seen many a football international gracing its turf in days gone by, most recently a double-header between Australia and New Zealand at senior women’s and Olympics level in 2008.
This latest duel between trans-tasman rivals took a while to get into gear, with Wellington engineering the first chance in the tenth minute when Albert Riera’s through ball for Stein Huysegems saw the striker’s shot blocked by the legs of Reddy.
Moss’ first involvement in the game came sixteen minutes later, the ‘keeper smothering a cross from Joshua Rose after the fullback had wriggled inside and attempted to pick out Mile Sterjovski arriving on the far post.
The tempo began to pick up at this point, with Jason Hicks and Jeremy Brockie combining to play Kenny Cunningham in down the left. Marcel Seip’s intervention meant he was unable to pull the ball back for Brockie or Huysegems, both of whom were racing in anticipating the delivery.
After Nick Fitzgerald’s goal-bound shot had been blocked to safety by Andrew Durante, Wellington piled on the pressure, Reddy forced to save from both Hicks and Brockie – a twenty-five yard free-kick – before Ben Sigmund saw his header from a corner cleared off the line by Nick Montgomery.
Central Coast broke the deadlock in the 27th minute. Sterjovski scampered down the right before fizzing in a cross which Sigmund failed to deal with. Storm Roux, a New Zealand international playing against the team based in his homeland, pounced on his All
Whites’ team-mate’s blunder and duly rammed the ball home from six yards, to the delight of the local fans.
Back came Wellington, Brockie drawing another save from Reddy before Cunningham sent one narrowly over the bar from the edge of the penalty area, having evaded three challenges prior to letting fly in the 32nd minute.
Cue a Central Coast riposte, John Hutchinson combining with Marcos Flores to prise open Wellington’s defence and present Daniel McBreen with a 33rd minute shooting chance. Moss dived low to his left to turn the ball to safety.
Before the interval, Reddy kept out a twenty-yarder from Hicks, after he had swooped on a loose ball, while Vince Lia grazed the crossbar five minutes before half-time, following some brilliant close control by Huysegems engineered the opening.
Wellington were fastest out of the blocks in the second spell, with Riera, Huysegems and Hicks combining four minutes after the resumption to play Manny Muscat in on the left. Roux came across and sent him tumbling, prompting referee Kris Griffiths-Jones to point to the penalty spot.
Up stepped Huysegems, who promptly buried his head in his hands as Reddy dived to his left to splendidly turn his twelve yard effort to safety – a top penalty save which kept his team in front.
It was a let-off for the home team, who looked to take full advantage soon after, only to find Moss in world class form. The save he made with his legs to deny Flores at close quarters in the 52nd minute was routine compared to what he produced five minutes later – a “worldie” in anyone’s lamguage!
Roux and Flores worked a one-two near the edge of Wellington’s penalty area which allowed the fullback to round Muscat and fire a low cross into the heart of the goalmouth. Fitzgerald swooped, meeting the ball flush on the volley from six yards out.
Moss, who had been covering the near post, flung himself to his right and produced a stunning reflex save, turning the ball over the bar from somewhere around knee height – a truly breathtaking denial!
Wellington gained great heart from this, and resumed their pursuit of an equaliser forthwith. Louis Fenton went down in the area under Fitzgerald’s challenge soon after, but referee Griffiths-Jones wasn’t having a bar of any penalty claims.
Then Brockie’s attempt to take advantage of an under-strength Trent Sainsbury header was foiled by the alertness of Reddy, who raced off his line to avert the danger decidedly swiftly before, in the 73rd minute, denying Paul Ifill’s low drive.
Fortune favoured Reddy on this occasion, as his parried stop sent the ball across the face of goal, but behind both Huysegems and Cunningham, who were racing in on the far post anticipating just such an opportunity.
Ten minutes from time, Reddy was right behind a drive from Huysegems, after Tyler Boyd had picked out the Belgian with a cross, while seconds later a neat move featuring Lia, Ifill and the overlapping figure of Fenton saw the last-mentioned’s cross for Brockie cut out well by the goalkeeper, who then thwarted Ifill’s smart shot on the turn after Sigmund and Boyd had combined on the left.
It was down that flank that Ifill steamed in the 84th minute, as Wellington piled on the pressure in search of the equaliser their efforts merited. The Barbados international’s cross was a gem, just out of Reddy’s reach but perfectly measured to arrive in Brockie’s stride as he arrived on the far post.
Five yards out, open goal. How can you possibly miss? For the second game running, Brockie found a way, sending his effort skywards while at full stretch … you could visibly see Wellington heads dropping right across the pitch at this squandered chance.
Cue a late surge from the home team, as they looked to consolidate their win. Moss, however, had other ideas, producing a double save to deny both Mitchell Duke’s deflected drive and Fitzgerald’s attempt to turn home the rebound.
The ‘keeper then combined with Andrew Durante to thwart Sainsbury’s progress, as the defender, who had ignited the raid by tackling Ifill, linked with McBreen and Duke, whose cross looked to reward Sainsbury’s run deep into enemy territory.
Wellington’s night was summed up deep in stoppage time, when they were awarded a free-kick just outside the penalty area – Ifill territory. Up he stepped, only to see his shot cannon to safety off the back of team-mate Lia … after which the final whistle sounded, signalling a 1-0 win for the reigning champions, and the continuation of the visitors’ frustrating season.
Central Coast Mariners FC: Reddy (gk)(booked 85); Roux, Sainsbury, Seip, Rose; Fitzgerald, Hutchinson (booked 22) (Caceres +90′, Montgomery; Sterjovski (Duke +65′, Flores (Simon +65′), McBreen
Coach: Phil Moss
Wellington Phoenix FC: Moss (gk); Fenton, Sigmund, Durante, Muscat; Lia, Riera, Cunningham (booked 67′) (Boyd 74′); Brockie (booked 75′), Hicks (Ifill +63”, Huysegems
Coach: Ernie Merrick
Ratings and points
Referee: Kris Griffiths-Jones 5/10
3. Liam Reddy (CCM)
2. Glen Moss (WP)
1. Nick Fitzgerald (CCM)
By Jeremy Ruane
Photos: Lowenna Rappo