Late Wellington goals silence Sydney faithful

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

A-League Season 10 – 2014/2015 – Round 12
5pm, Sunday 21 December, 2014 – Sydney Football Stadium

Sydney FC 0 lost to
Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Nathan Burns 73′, 81′)

Wellington Phoenix silenced Allianz Stadium on 21 December, stunning Sydney FC 2-0 in front of 14,672 fans to leap-frog the beaten team into fourth place on the Hyundai A-League table.

Defences dominated proceedings, with the first shot in anger taking twenty-four minutes to be fired. Shane Smeltz’s effort flew high, wide and far from handsomely over Glen Moss’ goal after Bernie Ibini-Isei’s break down the left flank.

Welington’s response saw Roly Bonevacia’s teasing cross-shot deflected past the far post two minutes later, but prior to this the visitors were denied the opportunity to take the lead when an incorrect offside call thwarted Roy Krishna’s well-timed run to latch onto Michael McGlinchey’s through ball.

Sydney went desperately close to breaking the deadlock around the half-hour mark. Ibini-Isei played the ball forward to Mark Janko, who held the ball up well before touching it into the stride of his team-mate, who whipped in a low cross for Rhyan Grant.

Moss blocked his shot at close quarters, and recovered quickly to deflect Janko’s shot from the rebound onto the crossbar. Wellington scrambled the ball to temporary safety, for seconds later an Ibini-Isei cross-shot arrowed across the goalmouth, while Janko shot straight at Moss in the 31st minute, after good work by Grant on the right.

Terry Antonis fired Sydney’s last shot in anger in the first half, after sparking a 34th minute move which also involved Pedj Bojic and Grant. The midfielder’s curling twenty-five yarder arced narrowly past Moss’ right-hand post, with the ‘keeper diving to make sure it stayed out.

In the shadows of the half-time whistle, Wellington employed route one tactics in an effort to break the shackles which were keeping this tight contest in check. Moss’ raking clearance was held up well by Bonevacia, who brought the hitherto anonymous Nathan Burns into play. He evaded one challenge, but then saw his shot blocked by Alex Gersbach, an effort which brought the half to a close.

The second spell began in lively fashion, with Wellington denied strong penalty claims by referee Shaun Evans, who judged that Ibini-Isei hadn’t deliberately blocked a McGlinchey cross with his arm in the area. Video evidence suggested otherwise.

While Wellington were complaining, Sydney streamed downfield, Janko leading the charge. Only Andrew Durante’s timely block prevented Antonis from firing home the game’s opening goal.

Play was held up briefly soon afterwards as the trailing leg of Ibini-Isei caught Moss on the cheek as the ‘keeper saved at his feet as the striker looked to capitalise on a Louis Fenton error.

The All Whites custodian was left with a wee lump and what looks certain to be a black eye for Christmas, but thankfully the injury didn’t affect his vision in any way, although he won’t be too keen to look in the mirror for a few days.

This event, combined with the sterling efforts of Albert Riera, Durante and Ben Sigmund, ensured that Sydney wouldn’t get to see the whites of Moss’ eyes again until the dying minutes of the match, by which time Wellington had taken control of proceedings and claimed all three points.

The visitors started to gain the upper hand around the hour mark, Riera breaking up play then picking out Bonevacia with a pass which enabled the Dutchman to hold off a challenge before sending a twenty-five yarder flying past the post.

Five minutes later, Burns worked an opening for McGlinchey which the striker failed to exploit to the fullest, unlike Burns himself when the next opportunity materialised five minutes later.

A raking cross-field ball from Sigmund picked out the league’s leading scorer, who proceeded to lead both Bojic and Seb Ryall a merry dance before beating Vedran Janjetovic all ends up at his near post in the 73rd minute.

That certainly silenced Sydney’s Cove, in front of whom Burns scored. And they could have had a second soon after, Krishna sending one into the stands after Bonevacia pounced on one of numerous errors made throughout the match by Sydney’s stand-in captain, Nikola Petkovic.

Ten minutes from time, Fenton flew down the right to beat the offside trap and team up with Krishna, who beat an opponent before sending a cross fizzing behind the incoming figure of McGlinchey on the far post.

Sydney failed to properly clear the danger, for within sixty seconds, their deficit had doubled. A poor touch by Burns meant he couldn’t capitalise on Krishna’s pass, which found him lurking near the edge of the penalty area.

McGlinchey was swift to react, picking up the pieces before picking out Krishna. His touch found Burns once more, and this time the striker made no mistake with his control, using it to evade a challenge before angling a shot on the turn across Janjetovic and in by the far post – 2-0, and with nine minutes left, game over!

Sydney coach Graham Arnold threw on his substitutes in the final fifteen minutes in an effort to save the game, but the best they could muster was a late penalty claim which should have been awarded.

Substitute Aaron Calver’s lofted ball over Sigmund found Smeltz darting into the space behind the defender, whose instant reaction was to grab the striker’s trailing arm.

It didn’t prevent Smeltz from firing a shot which the advancing figure of Moss blocked at close quarters, but because Sydney gained no advantage from it, referee Evans should have been pointing to the penalty spot.

He didn’t, to the delight of the Wellington fans in the crowd, who gleefully celebrated their team’s third win from as many matches in New South Wales this season when the final whistle sounded.

Match details

Crowd: 14,672

Sydney FC:
Janjetovic (gk); Bojic (Calver, 83), Ryall, Petkovic, Gersbach (Triantis, 77); Dimitrijevic, Smeltz, Antonis; Grant (Naumoff, 79), Janko, Ibini-Isei

Wellington Phoenix FC:
Moss (gk); Fenton (Boxall, 84), Sigmund, Durante, Doyle; Rodriguez, Riera, Bonevacia; Burns (Cunningham, 90), McGlinchey, Krishna (Brockie, 90)

Points and ratings
Match:  5/10
Pitch:  4/10
Referee:  Shaun Evans 6/10
3.  Riera (WP)
2.  Durante (WP)
1.  Ibini-Isei (SFC)

Photographs by Stephen Webb