Melbourne emphatically end Wellington’s season

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League 2013/2014, Round 27
5:30pm, Saturday 12 April, 2014 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1
lost to
Melbourne Victory FC 4

Melbourne Victory ensured Wellington Phoenix’s Hyundai A-League season ended with a whimper at Westpac Stadium on 12 April, maintaining their own pursuit of a second-placed finish with an emphatic 4-1 win in front of just 5,336 fans, the home team’s worst turn-out of the season.

The visitors hit the front within fifty seconds of the kick-off. A superb six-pass one-touch move slicing Wellington to ribbons. The key to its success was a slick one-two between James Troisi and Guilherme Finkler, whose return pass allowed the former to surge into the penalty area and drive over a low cross which Archie Thompson rammed home from point-blank range.

Wellington never really recovered from this setback, and could have conceded a second goal four minutes later. Finkler picked out Costa Barbarouses, who skipped round stand-in Wellington custodian Jacob Spoonley but was forced to the by-line in the course of doing so.

From there, the Kiwi international, who was playing against his old club, slipped a pass into the stride of Troisi, who wriggled between a couple of defenders only to be denied by Spoonley’s smothering save at his feet.

Barbarouses was on the charge once more four minutes later. He linked with Thompson and the overlapping Troisi, who got to the byline before whipping in a cross which was just too high for both his front-running partners to capitalise upon.

Wellington were clearly missing the absent Ben Sigmund in defence, while in attack, Stein Huysegems found himself on the bench for the first time all season. Tyler Boyd, his replacement, offered the home team’s first attacking threat in the fourteenth minute, weaving his way into the penalty area past three opponents before forcing Nathan Coe to smother at his near post.

That sparked a tidy wee spell for the home team, who failed to capitalise upon a gorgeous Carlos Hernandez free-kick four minutes later. Kenny Cunningham, Michael Boxall and Shaun Timmins were all in the vicinity as the ball arced invitingly towards the far post, but it was Melbourne’s rearguard which prevailed, scrambling the sphere to safety.

They survived again seconds later, Cunningham careering to the byline before pinging in a cross just behind the in-rushing figure of Boyd. The Costa Rican was in full flight once more in the twentieth minute, this time slaloming through Melbourne’s defence, before he was crudely cut down in full flight by a nasty challenge from Nick Ansell – one of those fouls about which there could be no complaint about a booking.

Hernandez wasted the opportunity to level matters with the free-kick, after which Melbourne assumed the ascendancy again, Troisi hitting the side-netting from a tight angle after working a one-two with Leigh Broxham on the edge of the area.

Troisi then provided the return pass to reward the well-performed Adama Traore’s left flank raid in the 26th minute. The fullback’s well-worked one-two culminated in his going down under Michael Boxall’s challenge. It looked a sure-fire penalty, but referee Chris Beath was unmoved.

He was signalling a goal three minutes later, however, Melbourne punishing Wellington on the counter-attack after another Cunningham raid had ended with the midfielder being dispossessed on the edge of Melbourne’s penalty area.

Adrian Leijer’s tackle prompted a swift surge downfield, with Barbarouses breaking down the left before feeding Troisi as he raced into the penalty area. Without breaking stride, the striker unleashed an absolute jackhammer of a shot into the roof of the net from an ever-decreasing angle – a stunning strike which doubled Melbourne’s lead.

Wellington sought a swift reply, but their penalty claims were turned away by referee Beath after Coe appeared to bring down Boyd from behind in his eagerness to deal with a loose ball in the penalty area arising from a Hernandez corner in the 32nd minute.

After Spoonley had parried a Barbarouses bullet from twenty-five yards six minutes before half-time, Melbourne increased their lead still further in the shadows of the half-time whistle with a quite superb team goal.

There must have been at least twenty passes in the move, which swept from left to right then left again, before culminating in Traore cutting inside off the left flank. His pass to Barbarouses saw the Kiwi steer a delightful defence-splitting pass into the penalty area to reward Finkler’s perfectly timed run.

Without batting an eye-lid, the Brazilian deftly flicked the ball beyond the advancing figure of Spoonley with the outside of his right boot, and wheeled away in celebration as the ball bounced into the net by the far post – 3-0, and how!

There was little respite from the visitors in the second spell, with Barbarouses defied by Spoonley once more four minutes after play had resumed. Seconds later, Kiwi-born Thompson was just a stride away from getting on the end of Broxham’s cross-shot.

In the 57th minute, Barbarouses was denied yet again, but this time by foul means rather than fair as he looked to turn the ball home on the far post. Timmins came through the back of the striker, leaving referee Beath with no option but to award a penalty and send off the offender for denying what was a goalscoring opportunity.

Mark Milligan made no mistake from the spot to make it 4-0 after 59 minutes, a scoreline which was only prevented from increasing further four minutes later by the offside flag, with Thompson cutting a frustrated figure as his goal celebrations were cut short.

Another delightful Melbourne move materialised in the 69th minute, with Barbarouses and Troisi at the sharp end of a raid which featured plenty of off-the-ball movement to compliment the precise passing with which it was embellished. A one-two between the pair culminated in the All Whites speedster steering his shot wide of the near post.

A rare Wellington raid followed a minute later, Jeremy Brockie working a one-two with substitute Matthew Ridenton before unleashing a twenty-five yarder which Coe parried into the stride of Cunningham, who should have done better with his finish despite being under pressure from Leijer.

After Finkler fired Melbourne’s final shot in anger – a twenty-five yard free-kick – narrowly past the post seven minutes from time, the game concluded with a goal deep in stoppage time.

It was a cracker, too. Jason Hicks delivered a corner beyond the far post, from where Brockie unleashed a stunning twelve yard volley which sailed into the roof of the net – a lone moment of joy for the Wellington faithful to savour at the end of a season which promised plenty – until a host of season-ending injuries put paid to the home team’s play-off hopes, and nearly left them holding the wooden spoon again.

That “honour” instead goes to Melbourne Heart, while their cross-town rivals prepare for the Hyundai A-League play-offs. On this form, they’ll take some stopping.

Match details

Wellington Phoenix FC: Spoonley; Boxall, Adams, Durante, Timmins (sent off, 57); Lia, Muscat, Cunningham (booked, 34) (Krishna, 88); Brockie (booked, 81), Hernandez (Ridenton, 60), Boyd (Hicks, 65)

Melbourne Victory FC: Coe; Galloway, Ansell (booked, 20), Leijer, Traore; Finkler, Broxham, Milligan (Jeggo, 71); Barbarouses (Pain, 80), Troisi (Makarounas, 71), Thompson

Points and ratings
Referee: Chris Beath 5/10
Pitch 6/10
Match 6/10

Players points:
3. James Troisi (MV)
2. Kosta Barbarouses (MV)
1. Adam Traore (MV)

By Jeremy Ruane