Dramatic finale clinches come-from-behind win

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

Hyundai A-League – HAL 10 – Season 2014/2015- Round 26
Friday 17 April, 2015 – Wesptpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (Bonevacia 65′, Cunningham 79′, 90’+5)
Central Coast Mariners FC 2 (Fitzgerald 11′, Bosnar 35′)


Wellington Phoenix maintained their hopes of claiming a top-two finish in the Hyundai A-League in dramatic fashion at Westpac Stadium on April 17, coming from behind to down Central Coast Mariners 3-2, with the match-winning goal coming in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

The home team began brightly, Roy Krishna squandering a third minute chance gifted him by Zac Anderson. Four minutes later, Roly Bonevacia saw his twenty-five yarder grabbed under the bar by Liam Reddy, who then intercepted a Krishna cross intended for Nathan Burns after Bonevacia had ignited a Wellington counter-attack.

In the eleventh minute, with their first attack of the game, Central Coast opened the scoring to deathly silence from the 6,868 fans in attendance. Eddy Bosnar played the ball wide to Anthony Kalik, whose flick inside invited Isaka Cernak to split the defence with a pass which allowed Nick Fitzgerald to dart through and evade the offside trap, then beat Glen Moss all ends up at his near post.

Stunned by this setback, Wellington instantly went about redressing the balance. Burns shot narrowly wide after starting a move which also featured Alex Rodriguez and Krishna, while the Fijian spurned a good chance on the quarter hour, opting to cross instead of shoot upon being picked out by Michael Boxall’s delivery to the far post.

Cernak shot tamely at Moss in the seventeenth minute after being gifted possession by Rodriguez, to which Wellington responded with another flurry of attacks. Reddy dashed off his line to clear as Krishna homed in on a through ball, while the ‘keeper then stopped a shot from the striker at the end of a four-man move begun by Ben Sigmund’s buccaneering run past four opponents.

After Fitzgerald had a decent penalty claim turned down by the officials as he went to ground under the challenge of Louis Fenton, the fullback engineered an opening for Bonevacia in the 24th minute which culminated in the Dutchman’s shot being confidently grabbed by Reddy.

Krishna then sent an inviting cross across the face of goal – it only needed a touch – after a delightful piece of play by former Mariner Michael McGlinchey, to which the visitors responded by doubling their advantage ten minutes before half-time, Bosnar unleashing a twenty yard thunderbolt of a free-kick which careered through the wall and beyond the diving figure of Moss, who berated his defence in response.

2-0 down, Wellington had quite a bit of work to do if they harboured hopes of finishing in the top two. They attempted to reduce the deficit before half-time, but Reddy wasn’t to be beaten, denying Krishna’s fifteen-yarder in fine fashion before the crossbar came to his aid from Bonevacia’s resulting corner, which Sigmund met with a bullet header which crashed off the woodwork.

The second half began with Bosnar chancing his arm with another free-kick. Moss wasn’t going to be beaten a second time, and promptly sparked a Wellington counter-attack which featured Krishna, McGlinchey and Burns. The last-mentioned set up the first-mentioned, but the covering figure of Bosnar partially blocked Krishna’s effort.

McGlinchey fired narrowly over from twenty yards soon afterwards, while All White fullback Storm Roux bravely blocked a Burns effort at point-blank range on the hour after Krishna had set up Wellington’s leading marksman.

Boxall and Bonevacia then linked up, the visitors for once failing to close down the Dutchman, who set up McGlinchey for a curling twenty yarder which crept inches past the far post with Reddy stranded.

Central Coast came within inches of making it 3-0 in the 63rd minute, Fitzgerald firing his effort narrowly wide after beating two opponents on receipt of a pass from Nick Montgomery.

Wellington responded to this scare by dragging themselves back into the contest two minutes later. Kenny Cunningham had been introduced to the fray on the hour in place of Krishna, and his off-the-ball run on this occasion created space for Burns to exploit as he took on the defence.

The striker then played a slide-rule pass into Bonevacia’s stride, and from the edge of the penalty area he steered the ball beyond Reddy and into the far corner of the net – game on!

Suddenly, Central Coast were hanging on for dear life as Wellington threw everything at them in pursuit of an equaliser. Albert Riera – what a difference he makes to the home team’s balance – played a ball through for Fenton to pursue, the fullback having moved into an attacking role following the introduction off the bench of Manny Muscat.

While Joshua Rose thwarted the progress of his opposite number on this occasion, the resulting corner, delivered by Bonevacia, was flicked across goal by Sigmund. McGlinchey was unable to guide his header on target.

Twenty minutes from time, Burns fed the overlapping figure of Boxall, who whipped a low cross into the penalty area. Bonevacia pounced on it, only to see his shot blocked by Reddy. McGlinchey latched onto the rebound, but miscued it back towards Bonevacia, whose reflex shot guided the ball over the top from six yards.

That was a let-off for Central Coast, but nine minutes later, their luck ran out. Fenton, Cunningham and Bonevacia combined, with a defender blocking the last-mentioned’s progress. The ball broke kindly for Cunningham, however, and the substitute buried the ball beyond Reddy to level the scores and set up a grandstand finish.

And they got one! Four minutes from time, Central Coast managed to scramble clear as Boxall, with a header, then Andrew Durante, with an air-shot, attempted to turn home a Bonevacia free-kick.

Two minutes later, a Central Coast counter-attack saw Matt Simon just fail to get on the end of a cross from Cernak, who toiled tirelessly throughout for the cause in a match which saw team-mate John Hutchinson make his penultimate appearance for the side, his last in New Zealand.

Back came Wellington, Burns denied by a superb save from Reddy, after Fenton and Bonevacia had combined via a quickly taken free-kick. Then in the fourth minute of stoppage time, Burns whipped in a vicious cross which ricocheted off Anderson. Reddy parried it away, but only as far as substitute Jason Hicks, who blazed over from six yards with the goal yawning in front of him.

Wellington thought that was their last chance, given four minutes had been the figure on the board displayed by fourth official Matt Conger, but referee Peter O’Leary, in charge of his last match prior to retirement, found reason to exceed the minimum amount of stoppage time to be played, much to the home team’s delight, as things panned out.

For in the 95th minute, Wellington clinched all three points and a come-from-behind win which emphasised their character and resolve. Fenton led the charge, before feeding Burns, who steered the ball inside to Bonevacia.

He allowed the ball to run, because racing on beyond him was Cunningham. The Costa Rican unleashed a first-time drive which arrowed across Reddy into the far corner of the net, to the undisguised delight of the home team and their supporters.

There was no chance Central Coast could recover from this late strike, and when O’Leary blew the whistle for the final time in his career soon after, it sealed a stirring victory for Wellington, and guaranteed Ernie Merrick’s charges at least one home game in next month’s Hyundai A-League play-offs.

Match details
Crowd: 6,868

Wellington Phoenix FC:     Moss (gk); Boxall, Sigmund, Durante, Fenton; Bonevacia, Riera, Rodriguez (Muscat, 60); Burns, McGlinchey (Hicks, 83), Krishna (Cunningham, 60)

Coach: Ernie Merrick

Central Coast Mariners FC:    Reddy (gk); Roux, Anderson, Bosnar, J. Rose; Montgomery, Hutchinson (booked, 58) (L. Rose, 82 (booked, 85)), Cernak; Fitzgerald, Caceres (Trifiro, 85), Kalik (Simon, 72)

Coach: Tony Warmsley

Points and ratings

Referee:  5/10    Peter O’Leary
Match  6/10
Pitch  8/10

3.  Cunningham (WP)
2.  Bosnar (CCM)
1.  Cernak (CCM)