Dour draw punctuated by whistle blasts galore

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 8
8pm, Thursday 26 November, 2015 – Sydney Football Stadium

Sydney FC
drew with
Wellington Phoenix FC 0


Sydney FC and Wellington Phoenix battled out a dour scoreless draw in front of 9,253 fans at Allianz Stadium on 26 November, the mind-numbing Hyundai A-League contest not aided by referee Chris Beath’s penchant for blowing his whistle at every opportunity.

It was a frustrating evening for players and spectators alike as the official, not for the first time this season, made himself the centre of attention by blowing his whistle for 43 fouls, two-thirds of them committed by Sydney players.

While the vast majority of his calls were justified, there were occasions when the advantage could have been played. There were other occasions when the players’ desire to take a quick free-kick was denied them because they weren’t restarting play from the exact blade of grass on which the foul occurred.

With officiating as pedantic as this doing the rounds, the #SaveTheNix hash tag will soon require upgrading, to #SaveTheALeague. Because make no mistake, games of this nature, with fouls galore and refereeing decisions which don’t have the spirit of the game in mind, will turn people away from the competition. And what will the FFA do re their precious metrics then, poor things?

This really was not a great advert for football full-stop, never mind the A-League. In a game which saw the offside flag raised on just three occasions, misplaced passes and inaccuracy were as prevalent as fouls, with the first of very few chances materialising in the ninth minute.

Albert Riera – the best player on the pitch – released Michael McGlinchey on the left, with the All White trying a cheeky chip of Vedran Janjetovic. The ‘keeper was wise to the danger, however.

While Milos Dimitrijevic squandered a set-piece opportunity soon after – how Louis Fenton escaped being booked for his foul on the impressive Filip Holosko only the referee will know, Sydney came desperately close to breaking the deadlock in the twelfth minute.

Thomas Doyle’s defensive hesitancy was pounced on by Holosko, whose rasping drive was home for all money until Glen Moss plunged to his left and tipped the ball round the post.

It took twenty more minutes before the next shot in anger was fired, this time by Wellington. Alex Rodriguez, Fenton and Roly Bonevacia combined, with the Dutchman muscling between two defenders, only to send his shot blazing past the near post from the edge of the penalty area.

Nine minutes before half-time, Holosko pounced on a Bonevacia error and rampaged downfield before picking out Shane Smeltz, who evaded Justin Gulley’s challenge before seeing his shot diverted to safety by Andrew Durante. From Alex Gersbach’s resulting corner, Smeltz headed over the bar.

Sydney began the second spell brightly, and should have been awarded a penalty inside the first sixty seconds of the half when Holosko went down under the challenge of Manny Muscat, who had a game-long war of words with Alex Brosque, the Maltese defender making it known at every opportunity that he believed the striker was engaging in the “dark arts” in an effort to reduce Wellington’s numbers by one.

The visitors’ response to the penalty claim, about which Mr Beath wasn’t remotely interested, saw Rodriguez send a twenty-yarder skidding past the post in the 52nd minute, four minutes after which Bonevacia, McGlinchey and Roy Krishna combined in a counter-attack which culminated in the Fijian failing to pick out Bonevacia with his cross.

Back came Holosko, a driving run from well inside his own half only coming to a halt when he was tackled by Riera. Smeltz pounced on the loose ball and sent Brosque racing through, the striker firing across the advancing figure of Moss and just past the far post in the 57th minute.

A further twelve minutes elapsed before the next chance materialised, from a corner, Wellington’s first of the match. McGlinchey delivered the ball to the near post, where Krishna headed it across the face of goal. Following in on the far post was Rodriguez, whose low shot hit the base of the upright and rebounded to safety.

Fifteen minutes later, the woodwork was struck again, this time at the other end of the park. Substitute Matt Simon sent a pass across field which invited Brosque to outpace Fenton.

The striker duly did so, and immediately fired the ball beyond the stranded figure of Moss, only to see the sphere strike the inside of the ‘keeper’s right-hand post and ricochet across the goal to safety.

It was a genuine let-off for Wellington, who survived another scare soon after as Doyle cleared the danger posed by Mickael Taveres’ ball into the danger zone. Simon then chanced his arm with a twenty yarder which skidded narrowly past the post, while in between these efforts, the visitors attacked through Rodriguez, McGlinchey and Krishna, whose cross for Jeffrey Sarpong was plucked off his head by Janjetovic.

After Gersbach had squandered a free-kick opportunity late in the match, referee Beath blew his whistle yet again, this time to signal the end of an encounter which is more likely to feature in a list of “The A-League’s Worst Games” than in any highlights package. It really was not a good watch.

Match details

Crowd: 9,253

Sydney FC:    Janjetovic (gk); Grant, Ryall, Jurman, Gersbach; Holosko (Simon, 70), Tavares, Dimitrijevic (booked, 8) (Hoole, 58 (booked, 90)); Brosque, Smeltz (booked, 76), Nankervis (O’ Neill, 58 (booked, 64))

Wellington Phoenix FC:     Moss (gk); Gulley (Powell, 57), Muscat, Durante, Doyle (booked, 74); Bonevacia (booked, 14) (Sarpong, 80), Riera, Rodriguez; Fenton (booked, 85), Krishna, McGlinchey (Lia, 87 (booked, 90))

Referee:    Chris Beath

Ratings and points

Match  1/10
Pitch  8/10
Referee  1/10

3.  Riera (WP)
2.  Holosko (SFC)
1.  Rodriguez (WP)