Wellington and Melbourne City drop points at Hutt Rec

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 10 – 2014/2015 – Round 17
3pm, Saturday, 14 February 2015 – Hutt Recreation Ground, Lower Hutt NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 0
drew with
Melbourne City FC 0

Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne City fought out a scoreless draw in their Hyundai A-League clash on 14 February in front of 9,232 fans at the Hutt Recreation Ground, which the local side is having to use with their usual home, Westpac Stadium, having been hijacked by a cricket tournament.

The new venue is very much open to the elements, but drew a bigger crowd than has attended all bar one of Wellington’s games in the capital this season, although they had to put up with a typically gusty Wellington southerly on the day.

They were also denied the chance to see Damien Duff in full flow, the winger having to depart the fray through injury inside the first ten minutes upon being caught late by Roy Krishna.

It was a blow which certainly blunted City’s attacking options, and while they were regrouping, Wellington carved out the game’s opening chance, with Alex Rodriguez and Nathan Burns teaming up to release Louis Fenton down the right. The overlapping fullback’s cross parted the hair of Krishna as he looked to head home.

Five minutes later, City produced their first threat, Aaron Mooy’s beautifully weighted pass inviting Josh Kennedy to shoot. But as he did so, Ben Sigmund produced a tackle which took the sting off the shot and allowed Glen Moss to parry the ball, Manny Muscat dashing in to complete the clearance.

Seconds later, Sigmund thwarted Kennedy again, this time cutting out a David Williams cross intended for the gangly target man, who spent much of the game looking for a way out of Sigmund’s back pocket – the defender had a stormer!

Unlike Melbourne defender Jack Clisby, whose horrific post-ball challenge on Krishna in the eighteenth minute deserved something far stronger than a yellow card from referee Chris Beath, who booked eight players in this match, six of them sporting City’s colours.

Thankfully, Krishna was able to return to the fray. Michael McGlinchey, meanwhile, sent a twenty-five yarder sizzling over the bar before City’s best chance of the match presented itself in the 25th minute.

Mooy’s free-kick wasn’t cleared, allowing Patrick Kisnorbo to head the ball across to Kennedy. He guided it down to allow Connor Chapman the chance to fire home from three yards, but despite being over the line himself, Moss’ outstretched leg was in the line of fire, allowing the ‘keeper to somehow keep the ball out.

It was a let-off for Wellington, and they had another five minutes later when the largely anonymous Robert Koren landed a long-range effort on the roof of the home team’s net, with Moss back-pedalling furiously to avoid being beaten from distance.

Back came Wellington, Roly Bonevacia’s shot, from a McGlinchey corner, being deflected past the upright, while after Andrew Durante had denied Kennedy at the other end of the park, and Mooy had volleyed narrowly past the upright after Iain Ramsay and Kennedy had combined to good effect, Burns set up Krishna for a cross-shot which went screaming across the face of goal seven minutes before half-time.

The second spell began in staggered fashion, with both Fenton and Sigmund requiring treatment, the latter for a blood nose, the former for stopping a Williams piledriver with his face which left the fullback seeing stars, and eventually having to leave the pitch with a possible concussion.

But even before these incidents, Melbourne had the chance to open the scoring. Straight from the kick-off, they streamed downfield, Williams leading the charge. He played an angled cross in behind the defence which Ramsay, Duff’s replacement, met and looked to hook across to Kennedy in the one movement.

Sigmund’s interception of Ramsay’s effort spared Wellington’s blushes, but the City substitute, who was later substituted for the second week running, then teased Moss with a cross-shot which the ‘keeper had to tip over his crossbar to be certain it wouldn’t find the target.

Having already been booked, Chapman was fortunate to avoid a second yellow card in the 57th minute for a challenge from behind on Burns, in which he also tried to check the striker’s jersey label. How referee Beath deemed this a fair tackle … little wonder the crowd started chanting “You don’t know what you’re doing!” soon afterwards.

After this incident, Wellington laid siege to the Melbourne goal. A vital Jacob Melling tackle denied Burns from unleashing a twenty-five yarder on the hour, while Michael Boxall, Fenton’s replacement, misdirected his header from Bonevacia’s free-kick three minutes later.

The Dutchman then swept past two opponents before firing in a cross to the near post where McGlinchey (!) flew in to meet it with a diving header. Kisnorbo blocked this attempt, then produced a stunning tackle to deny Krishna inside the six yard box after he’d been released down the left and charged into the penalty area, Chapman trying not to tackle him and get himself sent off en route.

Twenty minutes from time, McGlinchey and Burns combined on the right once more – this flank was targeted as Clisby, having been booked early on, couldn’t afford another blemish, or he’d be heading for the showers earlier than intended.

Krishna couldn’t quite turn home Burns’ cross to the near post, but he was instrumental in Wellington’s next attack, providing the attacking outlet for the combined efforts of McGlinchey, Albert Riera and Bonevacia to exploit.

The Fijian’s cross for Burns was headed out by Chapman to Rodriguez, who unleashed a twenty yard volley which ricocheted off Kisnorbo, completely wrong-footing Tando Velaphi in the process. Fortunately for City, the ball flew past the left-hand upright.

Bonevacia delivered the resulting corner into the heart of the goalmouth, where both Sigmund and Durante were lurking with intent. In between them was Kisnorbo, who rose highest of all to avert the danger – City’s veteran stopper rivalled Sigmund for man-of-the-match honours.

After a brief respite, Wellington came again. And they should have clinched victory eleven minutes from time. McGlinchey released Burns at pace on the right again, and the striker’s cross zoomed towards the near post, where Krishna was arriving on cue …

If there is anything more embarrassing for a striker than to execute the perfect air-shot when the game is in the balance, Krishna would like to know what it is. It was a glorious chance spurned.

Six minutes from time, proof that there was no love lost between these teams, despite it being Valentine’s Day, was evident when a clattering tackle from Melling left Bonevacia in a heap and prompted a gathering of the clans.

Durante came flying in to give referee Beath his take on proceedings, and suddenly there was pushing and shoving aplenty, with Chapman – already on a yellow card – and Muscat in the thick of it. At one stage, there appeared to be a hand on an opponent’s throat … silly stuff, and doubtless something the “Naughty Boys” panel will review with interest, even though the original offender was the only one booked.

Wellington continued to press for a late winner, Velaphi denying Boxall from six yards three minutes from time, then looking on with relief as Krishna’s stoppage time strike sped past both the ‘keeper and – narrowly – the far post, after Burns had released the striker once more.

0-0 was the outcome, however, a result which served neither team’s cause too well, with City dropping out of the play-off spots for the first time in weeks, while Wellington lost further ground on the top three – they’re struggling to recapture the form they were exhibiting prior to the Asian Cup break.

Match details

Attendance:  9,232

Wellington Phoenix FC:     Moss (gk); Fenton (Boxall, 51), Sigmund (booked, 56), Durante, Muscat; Rodriguez, Riera, Bonevacia (booked, 75); Burns, McGlinchey, Krishna

Coach: Ernie Merrick

Melbourne City FC:    Velaphi (gk); Baharudin (booked, 86), Kisnorbo (booked, 68), Chapman (booked, 26), Clisby (booked, 18); Melling (booked, 85), Mooy, Koren (booked, 57); Duff (Ramsay, 9 (Murdocca, 73)), Kennedy, Williams

Coach:  John  van ‘t Schip

Points and ratings

Referee:    Chris Beath 4/10
Match:  5/10
Pitch  7/10

3.  Sigmund (WP)
2  Kisnorbo (MC)
1.  Mooy (MC)