Under-strength Melbourne Victory ease past Wellington

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

A-League Season 10 – 2014/2015
7:30pm, Monday 3rd November, 2014 – AAMI Stadium, Melbourne

Melbourne Victory FC 2 (Gui Finkler 24′, Connor Pain 68′)
Wellington Phoenix FC 0

An under-strength Melbourne Victory side proved too strong for Wellington Phoenix in front of 23,827 boisterous fans at AAMI Park on 3 November, prevailing 2-0 to retain their lead on goal difference in the Hyundai A-League.

The home team, who were denied the services of Besart Berisha and Matthieu Delpierre through injury, began in lively fashion, with Mark Milligan’s inch-perfect ball from the heart of Melbourne’s defence picking out Fahid Ben Khalfallah on the left in the third minute.

He eased his way in-field before delivering the ball into the goalmouth, where Archie Thompson was lurking with intent. Andrew Durante blocked his shot on the turn, but Melbourne were soon sniffing around Wellington’s goal again.

Costa Barbarouses gave Manny Muscat grief all evening long down Melbourne’s right flank, and on this occasion he scythed inside past the Maltese defender and Alex Rodriguez before battering a shot past Glen Moss’ left-hand upright.

Carl Valeri fired over five minutes later – he should have at least hit the target from fifteen yards out – after further Barbarouses hi-jinks culminated in the Kiwi linking up with Guilherme Finkler, whose deft touch invited Valeri to let fly.

Punctuating these attacks were offences aplenty, with referee Shaun Evans’ whistle a prominent feature of the first twenty minutes in particular. In that time, Melbourne were guilty of committing nine fouls, all of them justified, although doubtless Kevin Muscat, Melbourne’s coach, will disagree on that score.

It was a Wellington foul – on Khalfallah – which prompted the breaking of the deadlock in this encounter. Finkler’s 24th minute free-kick, from wide on the left, was a beauty, beating all-comers as it arced untouched into the far corner of the net.

The visitors had two chances to equalise before the interval, the first of which materialised on the half-hour. Michael McGlinchey was the architect of the opening, and Nathan Burns the beneficiary of his team-mate’s toils, the striker angling a low drive across Nathan Coe but past the far post as well.

Right on half-time came an even better chance for Burns to level the scores, Roly Bonevacia this time the supplier of the pass. It left Wellington’s number nine one-on-one with Coe, who saved splendidly to ensure Melbourne went to the dressing rooms a goal to the good.

Half-time substitute Jeremy Brockie went close with a headed effort soon after the interval as Wellington’s pursuit of an equaliser continued, while Louis Fenton also went close in like manner as the visitors dominated the early stages of the second half.

But their efforts were in vain, as Melbourne doubled their advantage in the 68th minute. Barbarouses picked out Archie Thompson with a splendid pass which the wily striker instantly steered into the stride of Connor Pain, who had only entered the fray less than sixty seconds earlier.

With his first touch, the speedy substitute sealed the deal for the home team, firing through the legs of Moss to give Melbourne a 2-0 lead which Wellington never looked like recovering in the time remaining.

Indeed, the home team’s winning margin could have been greater still, had Finkler’s twenty-five yard free-kick not curled agonisingly past Moss’ right-hand post in the 76th minute.

And in stoppage time, young substitutes Jordan Brown and Jesse Makarounas combined to slip both Thompson and Barbarouses through the inside right channel. The latter took the ball on in his stride, only to send his shot careering across the face of goal.

Brockie, with a well-executed volley on the turn, brought a solid save from Coe as Wellington sought a consolation goal, but ‘twas not to be for the visitors, whose record in this fixture is quite extraordinary.

Of the twelve games they’ve played Victory in Melbourne, Wellington have drawn three, and lost the rest, this the sixth successive clash in this series in which they have finished second-best on the scoreboard.
Match details

Melbourne Victory FC:    Coe; Galloway, Broxham, Milligan, Murnane; Valeri (Makarounas, 67), Finkler (Brown, 89), Mahazi; Barbarouses, Thompson, Khalfallah (booked, 18) (Pain, 67)

Wellington Phoenix FC :     Moss; Fenton (booked, 80) (Doyle, 82), Sigmund, Durante (booked, 80), Muscat (booked, 31); Lia (Krishna, 76), Riera (booked, 48), Rodriguez (Brockie, 46); Bonevacia, Burns, McGlinchey

Referee:    Shaun Evans   6/10
Match  6/10
Pitch  7/10

3  Kosta Barbarouses (MV)
2  Gui Finkler (MV)
1  Mark Milligan (MV)
By Jeremy Ruane