Wellington overcome Asian Champions

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of www.sportswebsoccer.com
5:30pm, Friday 7 November, 2014 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Nathan Burns 79′)
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0


Champions of Asia they may be, but the harsh reality of Western Sydney Wanderers’ 2014-15 Hyundai A-League campaign is that they are propping up the table early doors after suffering a third successive defeat, this time at the hands of Wellington Phoenix.

The home team’s 1-0 triumph at Westpac Stadium, watched by just 7008 fans, their smallest crowd of the season, was a cagey affair which featured plenty of individual flair and enterprise, but little in the way of an end product.

A timely Louis Fenton challenge in the sixth minute thwarted Nikita Rukavytsya in the act of shooting, after Romeo Castelen and Tomi Juric combined to prise open Wellington’s defence.

Five minutes later, Juric was unable to turn home a Rukavytsya cross after the latter had made in-roads down the left, while the latter directed an effort past Glen Moss’ left-hand post at the end of a counter-attack which had arisen following Wellington’s first raid of note of the evening, which saw Nathan Burns’ right-wing raid culminate in Roly Bonevacia’s shot straight at Ante Covic.

After Michael McGlinchey squandered a good chance from a free-kick right on the edge of the visitors’ penalty area – Matthew Spiranovic could well have been carded for what appeared a deliberate handball offence, Juric went close for Western Sydney when hooking a volley over the bar, Rukavytsya’s corner having been headed down to the striker by Spiranovic.

The closest either side came to scoring in the first forty-five minutes was in the final seconds of the half. McGlinchey flighted over a delightful free-kick which found Fenton flying in on the far post. Unfortunately for the fullback, he ended up in the net while the ball ricocheted off his head and past the upright.

The second spell continued in much the same vein, with chances few and far between. The first of them came in the 53rd minute, when a Rukavytsya free-kick prompted an almighty scramble in Wellington’s goalmouth, the feature of which was Moss’ point-blank save to deny Spiranovic.

Twelve minutes later, Wellington finally found a hole in the Nikolai Topor-Stanley-inspired Western Sydney defence. Alex Rodriguez took on the opposition, and when his progress was halted, Vince Lia was on hand to take over and slip a pass into the stride of Burns.

Just as he brought it under control, the striker stumbled, but the chance wasn’t lost, as the ball was directed into the stride of Fenton, who spurned a second chance to break the deadlock by driving the ball into the side-netting.

Sadly for the fullback, his next involvement of note in the match would literally end in tears. Having been out of action for most of last season with a dislocated right shoulder, Fenton was left in tears and pain unconfined when Seyi Adekele landed awkwardly on top of him after they tangled.

The fullback’s left shoulder bore the brunt this time, and from Fenton’s reaction to this 73rd minute incident, it would appear that another lengthy spell on the sidelines awaits.

Prior to this, Wellington coach Ernie Merrick had introduced Fijian flyer Roy Krishna to the fray, and within seconds of coming on he came desperately close to breaking the deadlock, only being denied by the lunging figure of Spiranovic, whose effort prevented the striker from making the most of a splendidly angled cross-field ball from McGlinchey, which found Krishna lurking beyond the last defender.

Krishna’s next involvement of note decided the match. McGlinchey controlled a clearance on half-way and laid the ball off for Bonevacia, whose slick turn engineered some space into which he duly charged at pace.

Supporting runs were being made left and right of him, and it was to Krishna, to his left, that the Dutchman directed his pass. The Fijian sized up the situation in an instant, and steered an inviting pass into the stride of Burns, arriving on the far post with the goal at his mercy three yards away.

The Australian struck, delighting the Kiwi club’s Yellow Fever fans, who, seconds later, engaged in their obscure ritual of shedding their shirts when Wellington were in front on the scoreboard with ten minutes remaining.

Burns rattled the side-netting soon afterwards, while five minutes from time Wellington were afforded a glorious chance to confirm the points when referee Lucien Laverdure pointed to the penalty spot, having seen Adeleke trip McGlinchey, but not the shove on the defender by the Kiwi midfielder which preceded it.

Wellington has a dreadful record from twelve yards, and McGlinchey extended it with a poor spot-kick. Covic saved it easily – after the denial he made in the Asian Champions League Final second leg to help his club win the competition, any save he makes is easy by comparison!

Cue desperation in the Western Sydney ranks, as they chased the game in an effort to avoid a third successive defeat. It wasn’t to be, however, with Wellington going close to doubling their 1-0 advantage in the dying minutes when Burns set a low cross fizzing across the bows of the incoming figure of Krishna, whose introduction was a significant factor in deciding a duel which was otherwise destined to finish scoreless.

Match details

Wellington Pnoenix FC:      Moss; Fenton (Boxall, 73), Sigmund, Durante (booked, 63), Muscat; Lia, Riera, Rodriguez (booked, 52) (Krishna, 69); Bonevacia, Burns, McGlinchey

Western  Sydney Wanderers FC:    Covic (booked, 85); Mullen, Spiranovic, Topor-Stanley (booked, 90), Adeleke; La Rocca, Fofanah, Trifiro; Castelen, Juric, Rukavytsya (Sotirio, 75)
Yellow cards: Phoenix: Rodriguez, Durante; Western Sydney Wanderers: Covic, Topor-Stanley

Referee: Lucien Laverdure 6/10
Match  5/10
Pitch  8/10
3.  McGlinchey (WP)
2.  Spiranovic (WSW)
1.  Castelen (WSW)

By Jeremy Ruane