Wellington stun Melbourne to record historic win

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 10 – 2014/2015 – Round 19
5pm, Sunday 1 March, 2015 – Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne Victory FC 2 (Galloway 34′, Barbarouses 53′)
lost to
Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (Bonevacia 42′, Boxall 68′, Burns 77′)


Wellington Phoenix scored a come-from-behind 3-2 win over Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on 1 March to record their first-ever triumph on the road over the home team in the Hyundai A-League.

Both teams produced a superb opening forty-five minutes of football which kept the 22,096-strong crowd on the edge of their seats throughout proceedings. It was Melbourne who carved out the greater share of the scoring chances, however, the first of them materialising in the third minute when Fahid Ben Khalfallah’s progress into the penalty area was thwarted by Albert Riera’s covering challenge.

Five minutes later, a terrific parried save by Glen Moss denied Besart Berisha rifling home the opening goal on the volley, after Andrew Durante had been unable to cut out Costa Barbarouses’ cross which targeted Melbourne’s talisman.

Wellington’s attempts to break the deadlock were foundering on the final ball being cut out by an attentive Melbourne rearguard, which promptly ignited counter-attacks. A classic example of this came on the quarter hour, when Nathan Coe gathered the ball and threw it forward to Khalfallah, who set off on a swashbuckling sixty yard run.

He got to the edge of the penalty before setting up Barbarouses, who was only denied the pleasure of opening the scoring by a superb covering block from Alex Rodriguez, who got through a power of tracking work throughout the match.

From the resulting corner, Melbourne were awarded a penalty after Ben Sigmund upended the home team’s regular penalty taker, captain Mark Milligan. While he was receiving treatment, Berisha stepped up to the plate – not a bad alternative by any means.

But to the disbelief of the Melbourne faithful gathered behind the goal, the prolific marksman thumped his spot kick against the post, the ball rebounding away to the relief of the Wellington players.

Unperturbed, Melbourne pressed on, a slick one-two between Khalfallah and Berisha in the twentieth minute presenting the former with the chance to fizz in a low cross-shot. The ball zoomed across Wellington’s goalmouth, and again, the visitors were relieved this was the case.

Sigmund stopped Berisha in his tracks five minutes later as he looked to exploit the good work of Milligan and Khalfallah down the right, Wellington countering this with a Nathan Burns-led raid which culminated in Roly Bonevacia’s bid to turn home the cross being thwarted by Melbourne’s vigilant defenders.

Cue a counter-attack, Khalfallah playing in Barbarouses to leave him one-on-one with his All Whites’ team-mate, Moss. The ‘keeper was off his line in an instant and saved soundly at the feet of his international colleague.

Wellington then got hold of the ball and reeled off a string of passes with metronome-like precision. In the process, they prised open Melbourne’s rearguard, Burns the beneficiary of his team-mates’ enterprising play. The striker swept past three opponents before lashing a low drive narrowly past the near post in the 27th minute.

Back came Melbourne – it was end-to-end stuff, so much so that you couldn’t afford to take your eye off the game, lest you miss something. Guilherme Finkler was the latest to lead the charge, and duly delivered a cross which invited Berisha to execute an overhead kick. The ball bounced past the far post.

Barbarouses then chanced his arm from twenty yards after another driving run from Finkler – this shot, too, was narrowly astray – while the Brazilian clipped the angle of post and bar with a twenty yard curler in the 33rd minute, after Milligan and Barbarouses had opened up Wellington’s left flank.

The home team weren’t to be denied, and deservedly opened the scoring in the 34th minute, although you’d have got long odds on the scorer before kick-off. Khalfallah released Scott Galloway down the left, and the overlapping fullback drove inside before directing a low shot towards Berisha.

The ball bounced off the striker straight back to Galloway, whose next action followed the ‘Goalscoring 101’ handbook to the letter – ‘If you find yourself in the opposition’s penalty area with the ball at your feet and you’re wondering what to do with it, stick it in the net – the other options can be discussed afterwards!’

The fullback duly thumped a low drive through the legs of Sigmund, the ball striking the unsighted figure of Moss before ricocheting off him into the net to give Melbourne the lead.

To Wellington, this was a red rag to a bull. The visitors proceeded to take charge of the match for the rest of the half, going close to equalising in the 39th minute when Rodriguez released Burns down the right. The striker evaded a challenge before passing to Roy Krishna, whose lay-off invited Rodriguez to let fly, inaccurately.

Three minutes later, the visitors had no such concerns regarding inaccuracy as they levelled the scores. Krishna, not for the first nor the last time in the game, was fouled, on this occasion some thirty yards from goal. Up stepped Bonevacia to unleash an inch-perfect free-kick over the wall and into the top near corner of Coe’s net, the ‘keeper getting a hand to it but in vain – 1-1.

There was no denying that Wellington were up for this contest after that goal, but Melbourne looked to put that prospect to bed by starting the second spell in vibrant fashion.

Barbarouses and Finkler worked a one-two in the 52nd minute which saw the Kiwi’s low cross scrambled clear by Sigmund. Wellington clearly failed to heed the warning, for sixty seconds later, on receipt of a Jason Geria pass, Barbarouses worked another one-two, this time with Carl Valeri.

On this occasion, the return ball put Barbarouses in one-on-one with Moss, and this time the speedster would not be denied, his deft finish guiding the ball into the far corner of the net to the delight of the local faithful – 2-1 Melbourne.

Wellington were reeling, and came close to conceding a third goal moments later when a Finkler free-kick was only cleared as far as Valeri, whose twenty yard volley sizzled through the crowded goalmouth and inches past Moss’ right-hand post.

Just after the hour, another Melbourne raid saw Geria release Barbarouses at pace. His low cross was tailor-made for Berisha to meet as he raced in to the near post area, but Moss was too quick for him, smothering solidly.

The visitors charged up the other end of the park and had strong penalty claims turned down by referee Jarred Gillett when Manny Muscat found himself in a scissors-like tackle from Geria.

The referee, who refused the visitors another penalty claim later on when Leigh Broxham appeared to use his hands to block a twenty-yarder from Burns, generally contributed well to a game in which both teams were hell-bent on producing a highly attractive footballing spectacle.

An indication of the official’s contribution was his willingness to allow free-kicks to be taken from the general area in which the foul was committed, when so often referees insist that they be taken from the exact blade of grass.

Mr Gillett probably won’t score highly from his assessor on this aspect of his performance, but the fact he let the players get on with playing as a priority earned him the big tick from this writer, and probably from the players themselves too.

After this penalty scare, Melbourne seemed to run out of ideas as an attacking force, and suffered the consequences in the 68th minute. Burns was fouled some twenty-five yards from goal, and with Coe and company anticipating another postage stamp special from Bonevacia, they neglected to pay attention to another of the visitors’ key players at set-piece time.

Rather than going for goal, Bonevacia instead floated his free-kick towards the far post. Rising to meet it, six yards out and with no-one in blue for company, was Michael Boxall, who gleefully rammed home his header to set up a grandstand finish – 2-2.

Melbourne were stunned, and came so close to falling behind two minutes later. Bonevacia and Michael McGlinchey teamed up to play in the overlapping figure of Boxall, whose low cross for new arrival – and new signing – Joel Griffiths was bundled clear by the home team’s rearguard.

The home team’s fans reserved their biggest cheers of the day for the 73rd minute introduction of Archie Thompson, on the occasion of his 200th A-League appearance for the club.

But the team from the land of his birth were hell-bent on playing the role of party-poopers. Just seconds after Thompson’s introduction, only a stunning point-blank save by Coe prevented Burns from netting with an eight-yard volley after Griffiths and McGlinchey had carved open Melbourne’s defence.

Cue Wellington’s second penalty appeal, seconds after which they came close again. McGlinchey and Boxall combined on the right, with the latter’s low cross inviting Burns to attack the near post.

Valeri stepped in to deny him, and instantly ignited a Melbourne counter-attack which saw Thompson send Berisha careering away through the inside left channel. Andrew Durante jockeyed him all the way before executing a perfectly timed tackle in the penalty area which left the striker flummoxed as to where the ball had gone.

As he looked on, Rodrigues picked up the pieces and pinged the ball downfield, a raking fifty yard pass which landed invitingly in the stride of Boxall, who pinned his ears back and set sail for goal with Melbourne’s defence all over the place.

Up in support of the fullback was Burns, who remained onside as Boxall drew Coe towards him before rolling the ball across for the striker to steer into an empty net, a sight which literally silenced Melbourne’s fans, but delighted the pocket of Wellington fans occupying one corner of the ground.

Melbourne had no answers to this blow, and with the ever-dangerous Burns a threat on the counter-attack, there was more chance of the scoreline changing to 4-2 rather than 3-3 before the final whistle sounded.

3-2 it remained, however, a historic result for Wellington, who drew level on points with Melbourne and their next opponents, Adelaide United, thanks to this win, with all three teams just a win away from catching table-toppers Perth Glory.

Match details

Crowd:  22.096

Melbourne Victory FC:    Coe (gk); Geria, Broxham, Ansell, Galloway (Georgievski, 88); Valeri, Milligan (Delpierre, 79), Finkler (Thompson, 73); Barbarouses, Berisha (booked, 32), Khalfallah

Coach: Kevin Muscat

Wellington Phoenix FC :     Moss (gk); Boxall, Sigmund (booked, 16), Durante, Muscat (booked, 88); Rodriguez, Riera, Bonevacia; Burns (Lia, 90), McGlinchey (Hicks, 90), Krishna (Griffiths, 61)

Coach:  Ernie Merrick

Ratings and Points

Match  8/10
Pitch  8/10
Referee  Jarred Gillett  8/10 – see comments within the report

3.  Burns
2.  Boxall
1.  Barbarouses