Wellington stun Adelaide to score rare road win

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 10 – 2014/2015 – Round 14
7:30pm, Wednesday 31 December, 2014 – Hindmarsh Stadium (Coopers)

Adelaide United FC 1 (Cirio 73′)
lost to
Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (Cunningham 54′, Boyd 77′, 93′)

Wellington Phoenix stunned Adelaide United 3-1 at Coopers Stadium on New Year’s Eve to leapfrog the beaten side into third place on the Hyundai A-League standings and leave football fans on both sides of the Tasman in no doubt that they are not going to play the part of interested by-standers in this season’s competition.

The travelling team had won just twice before in Adelaide, on the second occasion – 3 February, 2012 – climbing to their highest-ever A-League position of second place as a result of their three-point haul.

Such is their form at present, however – five wins and a draw from their last six games have propelled them to within four points of first place – that you wouldn’t rule out seeing Wellington occupying the top rung on the A-League ladder before the season is over.

In this match, they were under the cosh for a fair chunk of the contest, as one has come to expect when Adelaide are on home turf – the FFA Cup holders are a very good and very entertaining possession football-based side, who are no easy-beats.

On this occasion, however, they came across a couple of Wellington lads who simply would not contemplate losing this match. Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund were nigh on imperious, and produced an object lesson in the finer aspects of twin central defensive work to largely keep the home team at bay throughout the bulk of the game.

It was Wellington’s captain who saved the day in the fourth minute, stepping in to deny Bruce Djite after Louis Fenton – his first of numerous blunders in this match – had been caught in possession by Craig Goodwin, who instantly linked up with Sergio Cirio to exploit the space in behind Wellington’s flummoxed fullback.

Nine minutes later, Sigmund was in the spotlight, thwarting Pablo Sanchez after Awer Mabil – a constant threat throughout – did Manny Muscat a treat, turning the fullback inside out on the edge of Wellington’s penalty area.

The winger repeated the trick on the Maltese international three minutes later before unleashing a shot which flew past Glen Moss but cannoned back off the post. Mabil latched onto the rebound before setting up Djite, about whose shot the less said the better!

Wellington first threatened as an attacking force in the twentieth minute, when a Michael McGlinchey free-kick was cleared to Vince Lia. His hanging cross targeted Sigmund beyond the far post, but United ‘keeper Paul Izzo showed great confidence under pressure to gather the dropping ball, certainly more than he could muster when it came to distributing the sphere to his United team-mates.

A first half of few chances saw the next one materialise in the 26th minute. The impressive Roly Bonevacia pounced on a defensive blunder and slipped a pass to Michael McGlinchey, whose first-time through ball left Jeremy Brockie one-on-one with Izzo.

The striker’s poor first touch allowed the ‘keeper to thwart him at close quarters, with Brockie unable to capitalise on the loose ball from the acute angle he found himself occupying as a result.

Back came Adelaide, Isaias mere inches away with a vicious twenty-yarder on the half-hour, before Moss parried a Sanchez strike two minutes later, Riera having been caught in possession by Djite.

More good work by Bonevacia soon materialised, the Dutchman securing possession before quickly linking with McGlinchey and Kenny Cunningham. Izzo was swift to recognise the danger, and saved well at the Costa Rican’s feet.

The home team finished the half in the ascendancy, but would go to the dressing rooms with nothing to show for their efforts, a result of Sanchez directing a header straight at Moss upon receipt of a Michael Marrone cross, and Goodwin rattling the side-netting after being gifted possession by Fenton – his was far from a memorable display.

How Adelaide didn’t open the scoring two minutes into the second spell defies logic. Jimmy Jeggo whipped in a corner to the near post which Fenton, in attempting to head the ball clear, succeeded only in directing it towards the target.

Time stood still as players from both teams watched the ball hit the inside of the far post, and it was a Wellington player who reacted first to clear the danger and ensure parity on the scoreboard would prevail for a few minutes more.

Come the 55th minute, however, parity was no more, as Wellington broke the deadlock against the run of play. Once more, Bonevacia was at the heart of the move, slipping a pass into the stride of Brockie as he burst into the penalty area.

Cameron Watson was on his back – literally, and duly bundled over the Supersport United-bound Wellington front-runner for what was an absolute stonewall penalty, at least in the eyes of everyone bar referee Kris Griffiths-Jones.

Because the official made no decision, and once again, time stood still for a second or three. Brockie still had the ball, despite his now prone position, and managed to ease it across to Cunningham, whose snapshot on the turn arrowed past Izzo as Adelaide’s defenders stood around anticipating a call which never came.

When the referee signalled a goal, they swiftly came to their senses, but the horse had bolted – Wellington were in front.

Adelaide swiftly set about redressing the balance. Within two minutes, Mabil’s dazzling run had culminated in Djite being denied by Sigmund’s superbly timed tackle, while Goodwin sent a shot screaming over the bar soon afterwards, after a Jeggo corner had caused problems.

Wellington threatened a second goal when a McGlinchey shot was blocked, and Bonevacia, from the rebound, sent a low cross fizzing across the goalmouth – Brockie, lurking beyond the far post, saw his attempt to turn it home blocked to safety.

Cue further Adelaide raids, and further instances of Sigmund’s intervention. The defender headed a Sanchez cross to safety in the 69th minute, and stepped in to prevent Cirio from capitalising on another cross from the same player sixty seconds later.

Adelaide’s pressure eventually paid dividends, however. In the 73rd minute, Lia’s lack of control on half-way spelled instant danger for the visitors, and Sanchez was not slow in exploiting it, releasing Mabil with a pass which allowed the winger to run at Durante.

He engineered space for a low cross to the far post, where Cirio was arriving unmarked to tap in for 1-1, to the delight of the majority of the 10,060 fans present, who were eager to see Adelaide sign off 2014 on a winning note against their closest rivals on the table.

Two minutes later, and the desire both teams had to secure maximum points was evident for all to see. Muscat sent Sanchez flying into the Wellington dug-out, prompting the United striker to respond via a retaliatory chest bump which knocked the fullback off balance as he prepared to take the throw-in.

Cue a gathering of the clans, which, given the incident’s location, saw members from both benches quickly converging to contribute to the finger-pointing, shouting, swearing and general carry-on over an incident which saw Muscat booked and Sanchez escape without punishment for retaliating … Mr Griffiths-Jones, can you honestly say you did your job to the best of your ability for the final time in 2014?

United were still up in arms when Watson played a wayward ball across his penalty area two minutes later. Wellington substitute Tyler Boyd was the beneficiary of this blunder, and despite using his arm to aid his controlling the sphere, he punished Adelaide in the best possible manner.

Boyd found himself one-on-one with Dylan McGowan, who was promptly left standing by the striker as Boyd wrong-footed him while bursting into the penalty area. Without breaking stride, the substitute then beat Izzo all ends up at his near post to restore the visitors’ advantage – 2-1, with thirteen minutes remaining.

Adelaide now faced a real challenge, one which came within inches of taking on Everest-like proportions two minutes later as McGlinchey thumped a shot into the side-netting.

The home team proceeded to throw everything at the visitors in the final ten minutes, even calling on Izzo as a makeshift striker in their desperation to draw level. But Durante and Sigmund simply would not be bettered, until it came to the third minute of stoppage time …

It was at this point that Jeggo picked out Izzo with a corner which the goalkeeper directed towards the target. Muscat blocked the effort, and prompted a Wellington counter-attack which saw players from both teams streaming downfield towards Adelaide’s goal, United’s ‘keeper leading the charge in comical fashion.

‘Twas to no avail, however, for when Wellington substitute Michael Boxall released fellow replacement Boyd through the inside left channel, there was only going to be one outcome, and the man who celebrated his twentieth birthday twenty-four hours earlier gave himself and his team a belated present, his stoppage time clincher securing a 3-1 win at Adelaide.

Match details
Crowd: 10,060
Adelaide United FC:    Izzo (gk); Marrone, McGowan (booked, 80), Watson (Kamau, 81), Goodwin (booked, 66); Mabil, Isaias, Jeggo; Djite, Sanchez, Cirio

Wellington Phoenix FC :     Moss (gk); Fenton (booked, 62), Sigmund, Durante, Muscat (booked, 75); Lia, Riera (booked, 65), Bonevacia (booked, 52) (Boxall, 90); Brockie (Rodriguez, 84), McGlinchey, Cunningham (Boyd, 71)
Ratings and points
Match:  6/10
Pitch:  8/10
Referee:  Kris Griffiths-Jones  3/10
3.  Durante (WP)
2 . Sigmund (WP)
1.  Bonevacia (WP)