Leaders Brisbane keep Wellington winless

by Jeremy Ruane:

with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com

Hyundai A-League 2013/14 season, Round 10
5:30pm, Sunday 14 December, 2013 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington

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Wellington Phoenix FC 1
(Carlos HernandezZ 47′ pen)
drew with
Brisbane Roar FC 2
(Matt Smith 37’, Ivan Franjic 75’)

Hyundai A-League leaders Brisbane Roar maintained their position at the top of the table on 14 December, downing Wellington Phoenix 2-1 in front of 6,374 fans at Westpac Stadium to keep the home team winless nine games into the 2013-14 season.

It wasn’t for the want of trying on Wellington’s part, however. Just two minutes into the match, Manny Muscat sent Kenny Cunningham careering down the left, and his cross from the by-line careered past the flying figure of Jeremy Brockie, although Stein Huysegems, lurking further back, was better placed for a pull-back.

Carlos Hernandez rattled the side-netting eleven minutes later, while the Costa Rican combined with Vince Lia to present Brockie with a great chance in the twentieth minute, only for Michael Theo to parry the striker’s effort.

Within seconds, Theo was in action again, Louis Fenton having released Huysegems down the right, with the Belgian having played a one-two with Hernandez to leave himself one-on-one with Brisbane’s goalkeeper.

With Brockie racing in on the far post for a tap-in, Huysegems went for goal, only for Theo to block with his legs. Three minutes later, the ‘keeper denied the same player in more conventional fashion, a smart save low to his left to deny Huysegems’ rasping twenty-five yarder.

Still Wellington pressed, Brisbane very much second-best during this phase of the match, having engineered just the one opportunity so far, Besart Berisha stabbing the ball narrowly past the post after Wellington had failed to clear a Thomas Broich free-kick in the eighteenth minute.

Hernandez was central to much that Wellington did which was good. In the 26th minute, he picked out Huysegems with a pass which afforded the striker the space in which to beat his marker and drive in an angled shot which Theo could only parry.

Following in was Brockie, six yards out and with an open goal into which to put the ball. 1-0, surely … this, however, is a striker who hasn’t scored for his country in 42 internationals! High, wide and far from handsome! Miss. Of. The. Season. Without. Question.

Frankly, this writer has long considered Brockie to be a one-trick pony. It speaks volumes for the general state of NZ men’s football that a player of such poor calibre continues to not just be selected for both club and country, but earns excessive praises from mainstream media outlets for fulfilling what knowledgeable football folk regard as entry level expectations.

One hopes they’ll afford Brockie the excessive criticism he fully deserves for failing to fulfil that most basic of entry level requirements in this match – putting the ball into an empty net from six yards!

After Huysegems had sent a bullet header over the bar from Hernandez’s cross, and Cunningham sliced a shot wide of the mark after

Fenton had got to the right-hand by-line, the deadlock was broken in the 36th minute. By Brisbane.

You could have heard a pin drop in Westpac Stadium after Broich’s perfectly flighted free-kick to the far post found Matt Smith ghosting in behind Ben Sigmund to prod the ball past the hitherto unoccupied figure of Glen Moss … talk about silencing your critics!

Wellington were shell-shocked by this setback, and Brisbane wasted little time in looking to build on their advantage. Within three minutes, they were knocking the ball around with their usual confidence, engineering an opening for Matt McKay, whose twenty-five yarder stung the gloves of Moss.

Seconds later, a Fenton error let McKay in on the edge of the penalty area, the midfielder slipping a pass into the stride of Ivan Franjic.

He hit an absolute piledriver from twenty yards which cannoned to safety off the head of Andrew Durante, who was left seeing stars for a few moments.

Soon after his return to the fray, Wellington’s captain was blocking another goalbound effort. Broich worked a one-two with Franjic before linking with McKay and Corey Brown.

The fullback’s low cross invited Berisha to let fly, but Durante blocked it for a corner. Broich’s delivery to the far post saw Franjic’s driven cross part the hair of Smith in the shadows of both the crossbar and the half-time whistle.

Within two minutes of the resumption, Wellington were level, albeit in dubious circumstances. Frankly, referee Shaun Evans – who was poorly performed throughout proceedings – was conned by Cunningham, whose Swan Lake audition in front of the retreating figure of Jack Hingert proved suffice to earn the home team a penalty.

While their first half performance merited parity, earning the chance to secure it by such unsporting means took much of the shine off Hernandez’s clinical execution from twelve yards – yes, it was an equaliser, but not one of which to be proud.

It gave Wellington renewed hope, however, and within two minutes Huysegems was denied in the area by Hingert’s timely challenge.

And after Frantic – with a long-range free-kick while Broich was off the park receiving treatment – and Hernandez had gone close with efforts at each end of the pitch around the hour mark, the Belgian miscued a twenty-yarder after Brockie and Hernandez had combined to good effect.

Brisbane, however, were starting to see more of the ball, and in the 65th minute they were afforded the perfect opportunity to regain the lead when referee Evans harshly deemed Albert Riera had fouled Hingert in the area, after the fullback had worked a slick one-two with Franjic.

Up stepped Berisha to convert the penalty, but Moss denied him with a fine parried save. McKay drove the rebound wide of the target, much to the relief of Wellington’s fans, who celebrated this rare miss from twelve yards by the Albanian as if the home team had scored.

Alas for Wellington, they were destined not to. Instead, it was Brisbane who were to win this game, and they did so with a stylish strike sixteen minutes from time. It was a lovely move, initially down the left, but which greatly benefited from Broich’s switch of play to bring Hingert into the action.

The fullback linked up once more with Franjic, who jinked inside Manny Muscat before unleashing a dipping curler from the edge of the penalty area which arced round and over the despairing dive of Moss and slammed into the far corner of the net – a cracking strike to restore Brisbane’s lead, 2-1.

Cue a frantic finale from the home team, with Hernandez seeing his eightieth minute piledriver blocked by Dimitri Petratos, following a Jason Hicks corner. Another such set-piece followed seconds later, and Brisbane’s failure to clear it allowed Durante to head the ball through for substitute Paul Ifill, whose stabbed effort from an acute angle rolled agonisingly across the face of goal.

Moments later, a twenty-yarder from Hernandez narrowly cleared the crossbar, while only Luke Brattan’s desperate goal-line clearance prevented Riera’s controlled twenty yard drive through a crowded penalty area from affording Wellington a second equaliser.

In the final minute, Ifill twice looked to earn a share of the points for the home team, but his first effort was blocked, and the second smothered by Theo, who, like his team-mates, was relieved to hear the final whistle soon afterwards, as it confirmed Brisbane’s eighth win of the season and maintained their five-point lead.

Wellington, meanwhile, remain well entrenched at the wrong end of the table, and head to North Sydney Oval on Thursday evening for their rescheduled sixth round encounter with Central Coast Mariners, a match Ernie Merrick’s side simply must win just to stay in touch with the teams above them on the table.

Match details
Wellington Phoenix FC : Moss (gk); Fenton, Sigmund (booked, 14), Durante (booked, 17), Muscat; Lia, Riera (booked, 65), Cunningham (Hicks, 70); Brockie (booked, 45) (Ifill, 68), Hernandez, Huysegems

Brisbane Roar FC: Theo (gk); Hingert, Donachie, Smith, Brown; Miller (Petratos, 71), Brattan, McKay; Franjic (Yeboah, 88), Berisha (booked, 33), Broich

Ratings:
Referee: Shaun Evans 1/10
Match 6/10
Pitch 8/10Player Points:

3. Ivan Franjic (BR)
2. Riera (WP)
1. Corey Brown (BR)

By Jeremy Ruane