Wellington come from behind to down Champions

By Jeremy Ruane:
With courtesy of www.sportswebsoccer.com

Hyundai A-League – Season 2013/2014 – Round 20
7:30pm, Friday 21 February, 2014 – Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Central Coast Mariners FC 1 (Bernie Ibin-Isei 20′)
lost to
Wellington Phoenix FC 4
(Kenny Cunningham 47′, Carlos Hernandez 64, Stein Huysegems 65′, Jeremy Brockie 82′)

Wellington Phoenix produced a stunning second half fightback to hand reigning Hyundai A-League champions Central Coast Mariners a 4-1 hiding at Bluetongue Stadium on 21 February, the visitors recording their biggest-ever win on the road in their history in the process.

The visitors enjoyed the game’s first opening in the third minute, Stein Huysegems working his way into the penalty area before playing a one-two with Carlos Hernandez.

The Belgian’s shot was blocked to safety by Eddy Bosnar, and sparked a Central Coast counter-attack which culminated in the outstanding Ben Sigmund producing a perfectly timed tackle to deny Mitchell Duke in the penalty area, as he looked to latch onto Kim Seung Yong’s through ball.

The visitors responded to this in the eleventh minute, Huysegems and Hernandez this time working a short corner routine which saw the former pick out Kenny Cunningham, whose twelve-yard header was grabbed by Liam Reddy.

Another Cunningham header, this one unchallenged as he was picked out by a pinpoint Hernandez free-kick four minutes later, flashed past the post, much to the relief of Reddy, who was soon in action again, this time in an attacking sense.

It was the goalkeeper’s clearance which sparked another Central Coast counter-attack in the seventeenth minute. Duke gathered it in and outpaced Andrew Durante, only to undo all his good work by firing the ball well wide of both Glen Moss and the goal Wellington defended.

That goal had the ball stuck inside it in the twentieth minute, as the title-holders opened the scoring. Kim released Bernie Ibini-Isei down the left at pace, and he cut inside the covering figure of Sigmund before curling a delightful shot around Moss and into the far corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area.

Throughout the rest of the half, despite plenty of thrust and counter-thrust from both teams, neither looked like altering that scoreline. The closest either side came to scoring before half-time came via a beautifully flighted Kim free-kick, which Duke just failed to make contact with on the far post.

In truth, the game really needed a Wellington equaliser to get it going again, and within a minute of the second half kicking off, the desired goal materialised. Reece Caira raided down the left before seeing his cross deflected back into the stride of Cunningham.

From the edge of the penalty area, the Costa Rican let rip, and Reddy hadn’t a prayer as the ball careered past him into the net – 1-1, game on again!

Six minutes later, Central Coast were afforded a golden chance to regain the lead in bizarre circumstances. Caira produced a super tackle to thwart Mile Sterjovski in the penalty area, only for the striker to retaliate by kicking out at the defender, who went to ground.

Durante immediately began to appeal, but as he did so, the bouncing ball struck his outstretched hand, the defender’s instinctive reaction being to clear the danger. As he did this, referee Alan Milliner blew his whistle and pointed to the penalty spot!

Wellington’s captain could not believe it. Nor could his team-mates. Thankfully, for their sake, justice was served moments later when Sterjovski’s meek penalty attempt was turned round the post by Moss to maintain parity on the scoreboard.

Durante featured at the other end of the ground in the 56th minute, the recipient of a splendidly flighted Hernandez free-kick to the far post. The defender wasn’t able to direct his effort on target, however, fellow New Zealand international Storm Roux doing just enough to put Durante off on this occasion.

After Vince Lia had stepped in to clear a Matt Sim cross intended for Zac Anderson, Wellington turned the game on its head in a five-minute spell just after the hour mark. Manny Muscat ignited a counter-attack in the 62nd minute, immediately bringing Hernandez into play.

The Costa Rican played in Huysegems, who held the ball up before working a one-two with Hernandez, only to send the chance soaring over the bar from twelve yards.

A chance lost, but Wellington didn’t have long to wait to take the lead. Two minutes, in fact. On this occasion, Huysegems started the move, linking with Caira, who cut inside before linking with Muscat.

His pass forward found Hernandez lurking some twenty yards out from goal, and his dipping shot on the turn left Reddy and his defenders completely flummoxed as it crashed into the net off the underside of the crossbar – a cracking strike.

And another followed less than a minute later. Straight from the kick-off, Cunningham swooped on a loose ball and simply ran at the Central Coast defence. He enjoyed a couple of timely rebounds en route into the penalty area, the last of which allowed him to head the ball past the advancing figure of Reddy. Huysegems was racing up in support of his team-mate, and was rewarded with a tap-in – 3-1.

In the 69th minute, Wellington contrived a move deserving of a goal. Caira fed Cunningham, who evaded a challenge before bringing Hernandez into play. He worked a one-two with his fellow Costa Rican before setting up Lia for a rasping drive which, fortunately for Central Coast, Anderson was on hand to block.

The title-holders simply had to score next, but Sterjovski squandered a couple of great chances to do so inside the next ten minutes. He headed the first of them over the bar after Anthony Caceres and Sim had combined on the left, while on the second occasion, in the 77th minute, Roux picked out the striker with a cross.

Sterjovski used his arm to control the delivery, but referee Milliner and his assistants failed to see his action, enabling the striker to unleash a shot. Moss, who had already been claiming a free-kick for the handball offence, reacted instantly, tipping Sterjovski’s twelve yard effort onto the post before gathering the rebound and giving the officials a serve for their failure to observe the offence.

Central Coast knew the game was up for them at this point, but things were to get worse – they let in Jeremy Brockie to score a fourth goal for Wellington, eight minutes from time.

A delightful move, featuring Michael Ridenton, Muscat and Lia, who released Huysegems down the left, culminated in the league’s leading marksman unselfishly rolling the ball into the stride of the substitute, who stroked the ball home on the far post.

There was still time for another Wellington substitute, Roy Krishna, to thrash a shot into the side-netting, but the 4-1 scoreline was more than ample reward for the visitors’ devastating second half display, one which the home team simply had no answers to.
Match details
Crowd:  6,147 (not confirmed)

Central Coast Mariners FC: 12. Liam Reddy (gk); 29. Matthew Sim, 15. Storm Roux, 25. Eddy Bosnar, 5. Zachary Anderson, 7. John Hutchinson, 8. Nick Montgomery (28. Glen Trifiro +86′), 21. Mile Sterjovski, 20. Bernie Ibini (22. Tom Slater +86′), 9. Mitchell Duke, 26. Kim Seung-yong (17. Anthony Caceres +71′)
Subs not used: 1. Justin Pasfield (rgk), 4. Marcel Seip

Cards: Zac Anderson 74′, John Hutchinson 26′, Matthew Sim 56′ (YC)
Coach: Phil Moss

Wellington Phoenix FC: 1. Glenn Moss (gk), 2. Manny Muscat, 3. Reece Caira, 5. Michael Boxhall, 9. Kenny Cunningham (23. Matthew Ridenton +78′), 10. Stein Huysegems, 12, Tyler Boyd (24. Roy Krishna +88′), 17. Vince Lia, 18. Ben Sigmund, 21. Carlos Hernandez (11. Jeremy Brockie +78′), 22. Andrew Durante
Subs not used: 20. Lewis Italiano (rgk), 6. Joshua Brindell-South

Cards: Kenny Cunningham 34′ (YC)
Coach: Ernie Merrick

Points and ratings

Referee: Alan Milliner 4/10
Assistants: Ashley Beecham, Leigh Pilgrim; 4th official – Tim McGilchrist

Game: 6/10
Pitch: 6/10

Player points:
3. Carlos Hernandez (WP)
2. Ben Sigmund (WP)
1. Stein Huysegems (WP)

By Jeremy Ruane

Photo: Archive photo of a Mariners game at Central Coast Stadium , by Lowenna Rappo for BOTN