Scoreless draw marks Wellington’s return to Caketin

by Jeremy Ruane:

with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League 2013/14 season, Round 8
5pm, S
unday 1 December, 2013 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ


Wellington Phoenix FC 0
drew with

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0

Wellington Phoenix made their long-awaited return to their spiritual home, Westpac Stadium, aka “The Caketin” on December 1, but were unable to mark it with a win as Western Sydney Wanderers emerged with a point from a scoreless draw.

The first half was dominated by the persistent whistling of referee Lucien Laverdure, who didn’t endear himself to either side, let alone the 7,147 fans present, with his pursuit of the pedantic punctuating proceedings largely to the game’s detriment.

Issuing four yellow cards in seventeen first half minutes – three of them to Wellington players – didn’t exactly delight the masses either. Granted, he did let the game flow more in the second spell, but there was a delicious touch of irony late in the match as the official unwittingly dropped his yellow card while play continued. It’s a wonder a player didn’t pick it up and pretend to book him!

Despite the referee’s strict adherence to the letter of the law, there were occasional glimpses of football breaking out during the opening half. Such as in the second minute, when Stein Huysegems got the better of Tahj Minniecon to drive a low cross into the goalmouth from the by-line.

Ante Covic got down quickly to smother this threat before Kenny Cunningham could pounce, while at the other end three minutes later, Glen Moss had to be alert to keep out a deflected Labinot Haliti effort at the base of his near post, after Mark Bridge had bundled over Ben Sigmund in the build-up, an incident strangely ignored by our whistle-happy official.

On the quarter-hour, Cunningham, Manny Muscat and Albert Riera combined neatly outside the penalty area to present the first-mentioned with a chance. He fired this wide, while four minutes later Cunningham was in again, this time following Louis Fenton’s driving run and penetrative pass. Covic was out quickly to save at his feet.

Western Sydney were offering the greater attacking threat in this match, but Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund were coping with the best that they could muster, so much so that Moss was rarely called upon.

His goal was genuinely threatened six minutes before half-time, however, after Michael Beauchamp sent Shannon Cole careering down the right. The overlapping fullback’s cross sought the head of Haliti, but Durante did just enough to deny the striker inside the six-yard box.

That was the visitors’ best chance to score in an uninspiring first half. Wellington’s materialised five minutes later, after Fenton had forged his way down the right to latch onto a Hernandez pass.

The fullback duly wrong-footed his marker before sending a low cross zooming towards the far post, where both Cunningham and Hernandez were converging. Unfortunately for the home team, Minniecon beat both players to the ball, and was able to avert the danger.

The last threat of the first spell was provided by Cunningham’s deflected cross, which Covic was forced to turn over his crossbar. Nothing came of the corner, a set-piece which contrasted starkly with the super one-touch move with which Wellington graced the game five minutes into the second spell.

Cunningham latched onto the ball on the left and played it inside to Hernandez. Jason Hicks and Huysegems were instantly involved in a rat-a-tat-tat of passes which prised open Western Sydney’s watertight rearguard, with the Belgian only being denied the chance to open the scoring by a splendid interception by Nikolai Topor-Stanley.

Wellington continued to threaten, and on the hour Cunningham led the charge with a counterattacking run out of defence before releasing Huysegems on the left. The Costa Rican raced forward in anticipation of a cross which duly materialised, but Topor-Stanley again intervened to Western Sydney’s relief.

This incident sparked a flurry of action at both ends of the park. Minniecon cheekily nutmegged makeshift left-back Muscat on the touchline before attempting an ambitious chip of Moss in the 62ndminute.

Three minutes later, a driving run into the penalty area by substitute Paul Ifill foundered on the challenge of Beauchamp, with Vince Lia at full stretch to divert the ball goalwards. Covic smothered his effort.

Twenty minutes from time, Moss parried a thumping thirty yard free-kick from Bridge to safety, while seconds later, Haliti had his hair parted as he just failed to get on the end of Aaron Mooy’s cross.

Penalty appeals at both ends, from Haliti and Lia, fell on deaf ears where referee Laverdure was concerned. In fairness, he was well placed to rule on both incidents, and there weren’t too many complaints from those on the field on either occasion.

Durante produced two stunning denials within seconds of each other in the 74th minute to maintain the scoreless scoreline. His timely tackle thwarted Haliti as he dribbled his way through the heart of Wellington’s defence to the six-yard line, while seconds later, the home team’s captain was flinging himself at Mooy’s attempt to fire home the loose ball – terrific defending!

Straight away, Wellington counter-attacked, substitute Tyler Boyd leading the charge. He got in behind the Western Sydney defence on the right before looking to pick out Huysegems at the near post. Covic and Topor-Stanley combined to thwart the striker.

Two minutes later, Bridge contributed a miss of the season contender. Youssouf Hersi scampered away down the right and picked out his team-mate with a pinpoint cross, six yards out with Moss to beat. Bridge sent it soaring towards the floodlights – an awful finish.

Nine minutes from time, Boyd managed to get away from the clutches – literally – of Topor-Stanley, as the defender executed a rugby tackle in his desperation to prevent the youngster from benefiting from Ifill’s invention. Referee Laverdure allowed play to continue, but when the next stoppage came, the influential defender was deservedly shown the yellow card – a great piece of officiating.

Said break in play was the result of more Ifill initiative, Wellington’s talisman this time scything in from the right before unleashing a fifteen-yarder. Covic parried it, straight across the bows of Huysegems, whose reactions weren’t quick enough to enable him to turn home the rebound.

Both teams strove desperately for a winner in the time remaining, with the home team going closest of all, twice in stoppage time. Ben Sigmund – of all people – produced a curling fifteen yarder which Covic somehow touched past his right-hand post.

From Huysegems’ resulting corner, Ifill rose high to direct a header against the upright, the last chance of a match which left Wellington firmly entrenched in ninth spot, while seeing second-placed Western Sydney slip further behind the table-topping Brisbane Roar, Wellington’s next opponents at “The Caketin”.

Match Details:

Crowd: 7,147

Wellington Phoenix FC: Moss (gk); Fenton, Sigmund, Durante, Muscat (booked, 88); Lia, Riera (booked, 29) (Boyd, 66), Hernandez (booked, 21) (Boxall, 63 (booked, 69)), Hicks (Ifill, 57); Cunningham (booked, 33), Huysegems

Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Covic (gk); Cole (booked, 90), Beauchamp, Topor-Stanley (booked, 82), Heffernan (D’Apuzzo, 74); Minniecon (Hersi, 63), Poljak, La Rocca (Trifiro, 77), Bridge; Mooy (booked, 38), Haliti

Ratings and Points:

Referee: Lucien Laverdure 4/10

Match 6/10
Pitch 7/10

3. Durante WP
2. Topor-Stanley WSW
1. Huysegems WP