Maiden win in Melbourne for Wellington

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League 2013/14, Round 12

7:30pm, Friday 27 December – AAMI Park, Melbourne

Melbourne Heart FC 0
lost to
Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Stein Huysegems 75’)

Wellington Phoenix scored back-to-back wins – and a maiden victory in Victoria – on 27 December as they edged Melbourne Heart 1-0 at AAMI Park in the Hyundai A-League’s battle of the cellar-dwellers, an entertaining affair watched by 6,486 fans.

The first half was laden with chances, the first of which materialised in the sixth minute. Harry Kewell released the overlapping Jason Hoffman down the right, and his deflected cross was headed out by Ben Sigmund.

David Williams was the recipient, but had to snatch at his volley under pressure from the closing figure of Louis Fenton, and directed his shot wide of the mark, seconds before firing a tame effort straight at Glen Moss.

Wellington responded in the eighth minute, Jeremy Brockie’s diagonal run being spotted by Manny Muscat, who picked him out with a whale of a pass. It put Brockie in the clear, but the striker contrived to pull his shot across the face of goal with Andrew Redmayne to beat.

The visitors continued to press, with Carlos Hernandez unleashing a twenty-five yard grasscutter two minutes later which hit the post.

The playmaker then picked out Kenny Cunningham with a pinpoint thirty-five yard free-kick eight minutes later which the Costa Rican headed straight at Redmayne – a great chance spurned.

Not half as bad a miss as that squandered by Melbourne two minutes later. Hoffman sent Michael Mifsud racing down the right, a flank which the home team frequently exploited during the first half.

He also breached the offside trap, Mifsud racing on into the penalty area before setting up Williams, arriving on the far post. The winger added another entry to the contenders for “Miss of the Season” by steering his shot wide of the target.

Back came Wellington, Hernandez unleashing a curling, dipping thirty yard free-kick which Redmayne, at full stretch, tipped to safety in the 21st minute. Two minutes later, it was Moss’ turn to earn his corn, saving with his legs from Williams after he had been picked out by Hoffman following a corner.

The home team enjoyed the better of the exchanges throughout the rest of the half, save for one Wellington opportunity, which saw Hernandez send a thirty yarder flying over the bar after the tireless figure of Albert Riera had won possession on the left ten minutes before half-time.

That was one less chance than Melbourne carved out in the last twenty minutes of the half. The first of them came on the half-hour, Williams capping a fine spell of pressure with a cross which picked out Nick Kalmar, whose rising volley narrowly cleared the crossbar.

Two minutes before half-time, Massimo Murdocca sent a twenty-five yarder over the bar to conclude a first half which fairly accurately summed up why both teams are occupying the bottom two rungs on the league ladder – plenty of graft and craft, but very little in the way of a cutting edge to do justice to all their creativity.

Wellington started the brighter of the two teams in the second spell, taking just three minutes to carve out the first opening of the half. Hernandez slid a splendidly weighted pass into the stride of Brockie, who was darting through the inside right channel, from where he fired a rising drive over the angle of near post and crossbar.

Melbourne responded two minutes later with a driving run by Aziz Behich, who forged his way deep into the visitors’ penalty area before slamming a fiercely struck rising shot goalwards.

Moss parried it to safety, and looked on as Hernandez saw a deflected twenty yard ricochet away from goal five minutes later, as Wellington maintained their strong start to the second spell – Melbourne’s attacks, at this time, were a tad sporadic.

One of those sporadic moments came in the 56th minute, when Murdocca’s jinking run culminated in his slipping a pass into the stride of the overlapping figure of Hoffman, whose cross found Mifsud at the near post. He set up Williams for a piledriver, which Andrew

Durante stopped with a part of his anatomy which would make most men’s eyes water!

While Wellington’s captain was still recovering, Melbourne took a short corner which culminated in Behich chipping the ball into the danger zone. Mifsud’s reflex header was excellent in all things but one – the striker succeeded only in guiding the ball straight to Moss.

Ten minutes later, Melbourne twice went close to taking the lead. Kewell – a rather subdued performance, it must be said – curled a twenty-five yarder inches past the far post, before a smart interception by Hoffman resulted in the fullback firing an early cross across the face of goal, Mifsud mere inches away from turning it home at the near post.

Nineteen minutes from time, Hernandez led a Wellington counter-attack. With Brockie and Huysegems running left and right of him, the Costa Rican opted for the New Zealand international, who again contrived to drag his shot across the face of goal.

Seconds later, a header from the All White soared over the bar after Hernandez and the lively Louis Fenton – soon to succumb to a shoulder injury – had worked a one-two on the right, allowing the Costa Rican the time and space in which to pick out his goal-hungry team-mate.

It was Brockie’s last contribution to the match. The first made by his replacement, Tyler Boyd, decided the contest, fifteen minutes from time. Riera won the ball in midfield, evaded a challenge then fed the substitute on the right.

Boyd burst beyond Behich before buccaneering to the by-line and delivering a low cross into the heart of Melbourne’s goalmouth.

Stealing in to meet it was Huysegems, whose stabbed close-range finish knocked the stuffing out of the home team, and put Wellington on course for not just back-to-back victories, but a first-ever in Victoria.

Immediately, Melbourne sought a riposte, Behich leading the charge down the left to the by-line, from where he fizzed over a low cross which the late-arriving figure of Mate Dugandzic was unable to turn home on the far post.

Five minutes later, with his first touch of the ball, substitute Golgol Mebrahtu uncorked a curling, dipping thirty yard free-kick over the wall and towards the bottom right-hand corner of Moss’ net. The goalkeeper plunged to his right to maintain Wellington’s advantage in style.

Only a splendid covering tackle by Robbie Wielaert prevented Boyd from doubling Wellington’s advantage six minutes from time, while in the minutes remaining, Boyd was denied a decent penalty claim when substitute Andrea Migliorini appeared to clip him in the area.

Huysegems then saw his driven strike smothered by Redmayne three minutes from time, seconds prior to the home team concluding proceedings with ten men on the park, having already used their full quota of substitutes before Fenton landed awkwardly in the penalty area, damaging his shoulder.

The pain he was feeling was eased a tad come the final whistle, which saw Wellington surge six points clear of bottom-placed Melbourne Heart, whose winless streak is now seventeen games and counting, and, sadly for coach John Aloisi, showing no signs of abating.

Match details
Crowd: 6,486

Melbourne Heart FC: Redmayne (gk); Hoffman (booked, 14), Gerhardt (booked, 45), Wielaert, Behich (Mebrahtu, 80); Kalmar (Migliorini, 80), Kewell, Murdocca; Dugandzic, Mifsud, Williams (Ramsay, 60)

Wellington Phoenix FC : Moss (gk); Fenton, Sigmund, Durante (booked, 26), Muscat; Lia, Riera, Cunningham (Bertos, 59); Brockie (Boyd, 72), Hernandez (Hicks, 77), Huysegems

Ratings and points
Referee: Srebre Delovski 6/10
Match 7/10
Pitch 7/10
3. Riera (WP)
2. Massimo Murdocca (MH)
1. Carlos Hernandez (WP)
By Jeremy Ruane