Thrilling win fires Wellington into Play-Off spots

by Jeremy Ruane:

with the compliments of
Hyundai A-League – Season 2013/2014 – Round 18

5pm, Sunday 9 February, 2014 – Hunter Stadium, Broadmeadow

Newcastle Jets FC 2
(Craig Goodwin 26′, 46′)
lost to
Wellington Phoenix FC 3
(Carlos Hernandez 21′, Stein Huysegems 33′, Jason Hicks 71′)

Wellington Phoenix climbed into the top six of the Hyundai A-League for the first time this season on February 9, overcoming Newcastle Jets 3-2 in a Hunter Stadium thriller watched by 10,406 fans.

They saw the visitors hit the ground running, Tyler Boyd stinging the gloves of Mark Birighitti just ten seconds into the contest, ninety seconds prior to a parried save by the ‘keeper which denied a thunderous fifteen-yarder from Carlos Hernandez, after Stein Huysegems had pulled the ball back from the left-hand by-line.

Within seconds, the Belgian was mere inches away from heading home a cross delivered by debutant fullback Josh Brindell-South as the visitors exploded out of the blocks in search of an early goal.

Newcastle weathered this early storm, and created a chance of their own in the seventh minute of play. Adam Taggart burst onto an Andrew Hoole pass and rounded Glen Moss near the edge of Wellington’s penalty area. But the striker had been forced wide in evading the ‘keeper, and wasn’t able to pick out a team-mate from the by-line.

Three minutes later, Craig Goodwin raced clear on the left before sending a shot sizzling over the visitors’ crossbar, after which a medial ligament injury suffered by Nick Ward, who was on the wrong end of a Matthew Ridenton tackle, ultimately saw the midfielder depart the fray.

But not before Wellington had taken the lead. After Birighitti had saved at the feet of Boyd – Hernandez was the architect of that seventeenth minute move, the Costa Rican turned executioner three minutes later.

Receiving a pass from Huysegems, Hernandez feinted past two defenders before rifling a twenty-yard missile past an unsighted Birighitti and into his bottom right-hand corner – 1-0 Wellington.

They held the lead for just five minutes. Zenon Caravella – he had a great game in midfield for the home team – powered forward towards the edge of the penalty area before slipping a pass into the stride of Goodwin, who simply slammed a murderous drive past Moss and high into the net behind him – 1-1, game on!

And so it was. For, eight minutes later, Wellington restored their lead. Reece Caira played the ball to Hernandez, who split the defence with a pass which allowed Huysegems to wrong-foot his marker before steering an eighteen-yarder beyond the stranded figure of Birighitti – 2-1.

Newcastle pressed for a second equaliser, with Ben Sigmund forced to head over his own crossbar and Andrew Durante to produce a timely tackle to deny Hoole in the next few minutes as the home team looked to get back on even terms.

Manny Muscat was also called upon to prevent Hoole from pouncing in first half stoppage time, seconds before the crowd gave referee Shaun Evans an earful for denying Newcastle a penalty when Brindall-South appeared to handle the ball inside his own area.

This sparked a Wellington counter-attack, Muscat leading the charge before bringing Hernandez into play. Caira couldn’t control the Costa Rican’s cross, six minutes after the pair had combined on another raid which saw Huysegems’ hopes of extending the visitors’ advantage thwarted by the burly figure of Kew Jaliens.

The second spell was just 47 seconds old when Newcastle restored parity. Goodwin gathered a wayward pass on the left, jinked between Brindell-South and Boyd to edge into the penalty area, then curled a shot between Sigmund and Vince Lia which arced around the diving figure of Moss and into the far corner – 2-2, brilliantly so.

Both the goalscorer and Hoole fired wildly over the bar inside the next five minutes, before Wellington countered in the 53rd minute with the Hernandez – Huysegems ticket, Caira the beneficiary. The youngster’s effort was blocked at close quarters by Birighitti.

Newcastle’s goalkeeper was soon in action again, saving at the feet of Caira in the 56th minute after a stumble by Caravella had allowed Huysegems to surge downfield and take on the home team’s rearguard before slipping the ball into the stride of his team-mate.

Two minutes later, a Newcastle free-kick culminated in a gathering of the clans, Jaliens having collided with Lia in an effort to get to the ball, then having a few choice words to say to some of his opponents, who didn’t take kindly to the Dutchman’s aggressive approach and stinging remarks.

Ruben Zadkovich appeared to add fuel to the fire a few minutes later, taking umbrage at the sight of the cramp-stricken figure of Brindell-South, who had gone to ground in discomfort for the second time in a matter of minute.

Newcastle’s captain simply hauled the youngster to his feet, thinking he was time-wasting – Brindell-South’s substitution moments later confirmed that was anything but the case.

After Hernandez had gone close to outfoxing Birighitti with a long-range free-kick which the ‘keeper caught under his crossbar, a splendid tackle by Taylor Regan halted Huysegems’ progress in the 65th minute, after he had been released down the left by Hernandez.

The Costa Rican was influential again in the 71st minute, but it was the recipient of his pass who was even more, as he scored what proved to be the winner. Receiving a Ridenton pass, Hernandez turned the ball into the stride of substitute Jason Hicks, some twenty-five yards from goal.

He jinked one way, then the other, evading two defenders in the process. This took Hicks to the edge of the penalty area, from where he curled an absolute gem around the diving figure of Birighitti and into the bottom corner of the net – 3-2 Wellington.

What did Newcastle have to answer that? The answer was very little, Hicks’ strike effectively knocking the stuffing out of a side which hasn’t won on home turf for nigh on three months.

Indeed, Wellington, who introduced another debutant in Alex Rufer to the fray before the final whistle, came close to netting a fourth goal two minutes from time. Hicks picked out Huysegems, who ran at Newcastle’s defence again, only to lose control at the vital moment. The ball was cleared to Hernandez, who, following up in support, promptly lashed a twenty-yarder mere inches over the bar.

Ernie Merrick’s charges had done enough, however, and having now collected nineteen points from their last twenty-four, are timing their run for the play-offs in ominous fashion, even though injury has denied them the services of Albert Riera for at least a month, an absence they were able to overcome well on this occasion.

Newcastle’s momentum is heading in completely the opposite direction, so much so that Clayton Zane’s team are now just five points ahead of a resurgent Melbourne Heart, Wellington’s next opponents.

Match details
Crowd: 10,406

Newcastle United Jets FC: Birighitti (gk); Brilliante, Regan, Jaliens, Gallaway; Caravella (booked, 42), Ward (Gibbs +24′), Zadkovich; Hoole (booked, 24) (Pepper +75′), Taggart, Goodwin (Bridges +82′)

Wellington Phoenix FC : Moss (gk); Brindell-South (Hicks +66′), Sigmund, Durante, Muscat (booked, 43); Lia, Ridenton (Rufer +84′), Caira; Boyd (Brockie +66′), Hernandez, Huysegems

Ratings and points

Match 8/10
Referee: Shaun Evans 6/10
Pitch 6/10

Player points:
3. Carlos Hernandez (WP)
2. Zenon Caravella (NUJ)
1. Stein Huysegems (WP)

By Jeremy Ruane