Newcastle score rare win in Wellington

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 1
5pm, Sunday 11 October, 2015 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Lee Ki-Je o.g. 45’+2)
lost to
Newcastle Jets FC 2 (David Carney 30’, Milos Trifunovic 70′)


Last season’s Hyundai A-League cellar-dwellers, Newcastle Jets, stunned Wellington Phoenix 2-1 at Westpac Stadium on October 11, as both teams commenced their 2015-16 season with a result no-one expected.

The home team are considered among the favourites for this season’s title, and they began the match very much in the ascendancy, with Ben Sigmund seeing his header from a Roy Krishna corner headed off the line by Cameron Watson in the fifth minute.

Three minutes later, the Fijian flyer scooted down the right before firing over a low cross intended for new signing Blake Powell. Daniel Mullen’s intervention prevented the striker from scoring on his debut.

Newcastle responded with their first attack of consequence in the ninth minute, and they nearly took the lead as a result. New signing Milos Trifunovic – he nearly missed the trip east due to visa issues – brought the ball down brilliantly before slipping it inside to Leonardo.

The newcomer slipped it into the stride of David Carney, whose cross to the far post invited Trifunovic to execute a spectacular flying hip-turn volley – had he connected cleanly, the 2015-16 Goal of the Season award was all over bar the shouting.

Sadly for the visitors, he mistimed his effort, which prompted another bout of pressure from Wellington, during which Mark Birighitti was called into action to smother a Michael McGlinchey cross intended for Powell and Krishna.

The latter battered a cross-shot over the bar in the 22nd minute, before the action switched to the other end of the park once more, with Ben Sigmund’s tackle denying Leonardo as he worked his way deep into Wellington’s penalty area.

The premature departure of Wellington captain Andrew Durante, to a calf injury, had instant repercussions for the home team. In the 29th minute, Lee Ki Je turned Louis Fenton this way and that before delivering a cross to the near post, where Carney, completed unmarked – he wouldn’t have been had Durante been on deck – arrived to guide a header across Glen Moss and into the far corner of the net.

The 6,255 fans present were stunned into silence by Newcastle’s goal, one which they sought to double four minutes later via a Carney corner. Mullen’s header gave Moss little cause for concern.

To this point, Wellington had largely been making all the running, with Newcastle resorting to getting ten men behind the ball at times in an effort to frustrate the natives.

Every so often, they found a way through the massed ranks of white-shirted opponents, with their next opening materialising ten minutes before half-time. Albert Riera – Wellington’s best-performed player on the night – picked out Krishna with a pass which he headed down to McGlinchey.

His return pass invited the striker to unleash a shot on the turn from just inside the penalty area, an effort which Birighitti saved well low at his near post.

Four minutes later, a quickly taken Wellington free-kick found Powell nipping in behind the Newcastle defence to put himself in a glorious position to level the scores. But with just Birighitti to beat, he chipped the ball across the face of goal.

With virtually the last kick of the half, Wellington got back on terms thanks to Roly Bonevacia. He charged forward from midfield before feeding McGlinchey wide on the left. The All White’s low cross was measured to perfection for the Dutchman to stride onto and steer across Birighitti into the far corner of the net from eight yards.

The home team came out all guns blazing early in the second spell, and could have gone ahead on the scoreboard within twenty seconds of the resumption. Thomas Doyle, Durante’s replacement, crossed from the left towards the near post, towards which Krishna was darting.

Birighitti got there just before him, and found himself with another save to make two minutes later, after Mullen had fouled Powell in the penalty area. Referee Shaun Evans didn’t hesitate in pointing to the spot, from where Krishna let fly. Newcastle’s ‘keeper plunged to his right to turn the ball round the post – a fine save.

Wellington had a further appeal for a penalty four minutes later, when the sliding figure of Lee blocked a low cross from Fenton with his arm just inside the area. Referee Evans ruled it was a case of ball to hand, but the video evidence suggests there was voluntary movement of his arm by the fullback to prevent the ball getting past him.

It was a close call which, on this occasion, didn’t favour the home team, who were soon engaged in a rugged encounter, with plenty of tough tackles from both sides earning the ire of referee Evans, who, after keeping his cards in his pocket during the first spell, was far less tolerant in the second half of the match.

The home team introduced another of their new recruits in an effort to break the deadlock, and Jeffrey Sarpong was swiftly into action, swooping on a loose ball in the 68th minute only to be denied by the combined efforts of Mullen and Birighitti.

Three minutes later, the deadlock was broken by the visitors once again. Mateo Poljak instigated the move this time, picking out Carney wide on the right. The veteran, whose opening goal was his first in nigh on nine years of A-League action, delivered a gorgeous cross to the far post which found Trifunovic ghosting in between defenders to tuck home from close range – 2-1 Newcastle. Game on.

Wellington went all out for the equaliser, and their hopes were raised when Nigel Boogaard, Newcastle’s captain, was sent off for committing his second bookable offence thirteen minutes from time.

It left the visitors hanging on to a precarious advantage, and for the bulk of the remaining minutes, they managed to keep their hosts at arm’s length. But in the dying minutes, Wellington carved out three chances, any one of which would have earned them a share of the spoils.

Riera played a short free-kick to Bonevacia, who played it on towards Powell. His flick invited Sarpong to back-heel the ball into the stride of Krishna, whose rising drive from the edge of the penalty area was splendidly turned away by Birighitti.

The ‘keeper was a relieved figure soon afterwards as Krishna steered a low cross from Bonevacia wide of the near post, before substitute Alex Rodriguez whipped in another low cross which Sarpong, from a nigh on impossible angle next to the near post, somehow flicked between Birighitti and the upright but across the face of goal – a quite remarkable close call.

But one which ensured Newcastle would claim just their second-ever win in Aotearoa, their 2-1 triumph giving the oft-troubled club a real fillip at the start of the 2015-16 A-League season, one in which Wellington will have to perform better than this if they are to live up to their pre-season favouritism tag.

Match details

Crowd: tba

Wellington Phoenix FC:      Moss (gk); Fenton (Rodriguez, 74), Sigmund, Durante (Doyle, 27), Muscat; Lia (booked, 50), Bonevacia, Riera; Krishna (booked, 62), Powell (Sarpong, 61), McGlinchey

Newcastle Jets FC :    Birighitti (gk); Hoffman, Mullen, Boogaard (booked, 52, 77 – RC, sent off 77′), Lee; Carney (booked, 56), Poljak, Leonardo (Haliti, 81), Watson (Kantarovski, 62 (booked, 89)), Alivodic (booked, 90); Trifunovic (Cooper, 90)

Ratings and points

Referee:    Shaun Evans 5/10

Match  5/10
Pitch  8/10

3.  Carney (NUJ)
2.  Riera (WP)
1.  Birighitti (NUJ)