Wellington win delights biggest crowd of season

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com

Hyundai A-League 2013/14, Round 17
7:30pm, Saturday 1 February, 2014 – Eden Park, Auckland .

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Wellington Phoenix FC 2
(Carlos Hernandez 22′, Kenny Cunningham 44′ )
defeated
Adelaide United FC 1 (Awer Mabil 89′)

Wellington Phoenix delighted their biggest home crowd of the season – 18,056 fans – with a solid 2-1 victory over Adelaide United at Eden Park on 1 February to close to within a point of the Hyundai A-League play-off placings.

Wellington made the early play in the early stages of the match, but it was Adelaide who fired the first shot in anger, a seventh minute effort from Fabio Ferreira which he dragged across the face of goal from the edge of the penalty area, having worked a one-two with Bruce Djite after initially being released down the right by Marcelo Carrusca.

The home team’s response was instant, Carlos Hernandez and Vince Lia linking up to release Tyler Boyd down the right. He held off two defenders before letting fly from eighteen yards, only to see Eugene Galekovic right behind the effort.

Ferreira was causing problems down the right, and in the nineteenth minute he made his way to the by-line once more before picking out Djite with a cross. The striker flicked it back for the unmarked Isaias Sanchez, who directed his twenty yard volley over the bar.

Back came Wellington instantly again, Hernandez sending Stein Huysegems spearing through, for once evading the offside flag of referee’s assistant Glen Lochrie. The striker found himself one-on-one with Galekovic, but it was the goalkeeper who prevailed with a solid one-handed save.

Kenny Cunningham was first to the rebound, and directed the ball back to Albert Riera, lurking outside the penalty area. He considered his options before choosing the right one, a lobbed ball for Boyd to head down towards Hernandez.

The Costa Rican never got near it, however, Adelaide fullback Daniel Bowles clattering into him just inside the area to give referee

Peter Green the easiest of penalty decisions. Hernandez sent Galekovic the wrong way from the spot – 1-0.

Wellington were good value for that lead, but Cunningham’s defensive shortcomings were exposed twice in the next few minutes, one of which earned him a yellow card which was brandished at the same time as that afforded Michael Boxall for his foul on Jeronimo Neumann – there hadn’t been a break in play to allow referee Green to administer punishment for Cunningham’s misdemeanour.

Boxall put his blemish behind him in the 33rd minute, igniting a move with a pass which Lia instantly turned into the stride of Boyd, belting inside off the right flank. The striker swept the ball across to Huysegems, arriving on the far post.

What happened next had to be seen to be believed. The Belgian rattled the base of the post with his shot, and reacted instinctively to direct the rebound goalwards, only to see the ball hit the bar – a quite remarkable double-miss which left the league’s leading marksman grinning sheepishly while shaking his head in disbelief!

Unperturbed, Wellington pressed on in search of a second goal. Manny Muscat and Cunningham linked with Huysegems ten minutes before half-time, with the striker’s cross finding the head of Lia. Former Phoenix defender Jon McKain denied his old club by heading the danger to safety.

After the offside flag had harshly denied Boyd, Nigel Boogaard sparked an Adelaide counter-attack by releasing Neumann down the left. Moss smothered his driven cross, but within seconds, Wellington’s goalkeeper was forced to save at the feet of Carrusca, after the artful midfielder had wrong-footed Ben Sigmund at the end of a dangerous darting run through the heart of the home team’s rearguard.

Moss denied Carrusca again in the fortieth minute, moments before Adelaide’s pursuit of an equaliser were dealt a savage blow by a wonderful Wellington goal. Hernandez was fouled just inside his own half on the left, but remained standing and was able to send Cunningham scampering down the left in pursuit of his pass.

The Costa Rican evaded the offside trap – Boogaard kept everyone onside – and scythed towards the penalty area, where he cut inside Bowles before arrowing a shot through the narrowest of gaps between the diving figure of Galekovic and his left-hand post – a splendidly executed goal, and scored at such a crucial time as well.

Adelaide had it all to do in the second spell, but could have found themselves even further behind in the 47th minute, Hernandez evading two opponents in midfield before slipping the ball through for Cunningham as he cut in off the left once more.

Galekovic smothered his shot, then sparked an Adelaide raid which culminated in a corner. This was played back to half-time subsititute Jordan Elsey, who delivered a measured cross into the goalmouth, just where McKain was lurking. With just Moss to beat, the defender contrived to stab the ball across the face of goal – a defender’s shot, yes, but a dreadful miss without question!

After this quick-fire start to the second half, the remainder of the match rarely rose to great heights – an awful lot of passes were being over-hit by both teams, meaning there were very few genuine threats on goal being generated.

Tarek Elrich engineered the first of those which were noteworthy, scampering past Boxall en route to the by-line in the 61st minute. From there, the overlapping fullback fizzed in a vicious low cross which zoomed across the bows of the incoming figure of Djite, who was a stride away from firing the visitors back into the match.

A string of substitutions followed, including the introduction of Jeremy Brockie, who, while a crowd favourite, did very little to justify their support in the time he was on the park.

In the 76th minute, Hernandez slipped him through to leave the substitute with just Galekovic to beat, but Brockie made a meal of it, firing well wide of the target, having allowed the chasing figure of Osama Malik to close him down on the edge of the penalty area.

Another wayward shot – the ball ended up nearer the corner flag than his previous effort – soon followed, before the crowning glory of Brockie’s display materialised two minutes from time.

Once more, Hernandez supplied the pass, weighting it in behind the defence so that Galekovic had to come out of his penalty area to have any chance of averting the danger.

Brockie was always going to win that race, and duly headed over the ‘keeper to leave himself wide of a gaping goal in the penalty area, and with daylight between himself and the target.

The sight of Brockie’s shot flying across the face of an open goal … simply not good enough, son!
Adelaide, for whom Djite had gone close six minutes earlier with a twenty yard grasscutter, halved the deficit in stoppage time when substitute Awer Mabil tucked the ball home on receipt of Neumann’s driven cross from the by-line.

But it was too little, too late for the visitors, who now find their conquerors lurking just a point behind them on the Hyundai A-League table.

Match details
Crowd: 18,056

Wellington Phoenix FC: Moss (gk); Boxall (booked, 27), Sigmund, Durante, Muscat; Lia, Riera, Cunningham (booked, 27) (Krishna +81′ (booked, 89)); Boyd (Hicks +64′), Hernandez (booked, 85), Huysegems (Brockie +64′)

Adelaide United FC: Galekovic (gk); Bowles (Elsey +46′), Boogaard, McKain (Mabil +74′), Elrich; Carrusca, Malik, Sanchez; Ferreira (Griffiths +57), Djite (booked, 50), Neumann

Ratings and points:
Match: 6/10
Referee: Peter Green 5/10
Pitch: 10/10 – if you can’t play on that, you can’t play!

Players:
3. Carlos Hernandez (WP)
2. Osama Malik (AU)
1. Vince Lia (WP)
By Jeremy Ruane