Wellington come from behind to delight big crowd

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 6
7:30pm, Friday 13 November, 2015 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 4 (Krishna 4′, Bonevacia 22′, 51′, Ridenton 68′)
Adelaide United FC 2 (Goodwin 3′, Sánchez Alberto 89′)

Wellington Phoenix scored a come-from-behind 4-2 victory over Adelaide United at Westpac Stadium on 13 November 2015 as 13,654 fans voted with their feet regarding Football Australia’s misguided and ill-conceived thinking regarding the future of the lone New Zealand club in the Hyundai A-League.

The game’s governing body has offered Wellington what amounts to a slap in the face with their four-year license extension proposal – all the other clubs in the league are guaranteed to exist until at least 2034 – and this understandably hasn’t gone down well with those to whom a club means all.

Wellington’s fans, with the support of many of their counterparts on West Island, have rallied strongly in response to the FFA’s short-sighted stance, and numerous measures have been undertaken to press home just how short-sighted said stance is.

In a week in which Wellington’s club membership figures have soared to new heights, the club’s biggest home gate of the season was another response to the FFA’s desire for “metrics” to be met, and the performance which unfolded before those fans should have them coming back for more, no question.

In a rip-roaring game, both teams netted inside the first four minutes of the match. United was first to strike, Tarek Elrich working his way down the left, initially via a one-two with Jimmy Jeggo, before getting to the by-line and pulling the ball back for Bruce Djite.

He was crowded out by the combined efforts of Andrew Durante and Ben Sigmund, but the ball spun loose for Craig Goodwin to tuck home from six yards, silencing the natives who were anticipating the bottom-placed team would be lambs to the slaughter, not party-poopers.

Wellington’s response to this blow was to go straight down the other end and restore parity. From the kick-off, the ball was worked back to Ben Sigmund, who sent one forward for Roy Krishna to pursue.

Osama Malik’s defensive shortcomings were exposed by the fleet-footed Fijian, as was stand-in goalkeeper John Hall’s lack of judgement. He ended up nearer to the half-way line than Malik as Krishna, under pressure from the desperate challenge of Dylan McGowan, gleefully steered the ball into an untended net – 1-1, with just four minutes on the clock.

Straight from the kick-off, Adelaide stormed downfield, and Djite brought the best out of Glen Moss with a twenty-yarder. Wellington responded to that strike via a lovely move, ignited by the superb Albert Riera and continued on by both Alex Rodriguez and Manny Muscat before Blake Powell opted to cross waywardly when a shot was on.

After that initial flurry of activity, things settled down a touch before United pressed again on the quarter-hour. Elrich’s angled cross-field ball found Djite arriving on cue on the far post, but Durante thwarted the striker just as he was about the pull the trigger.

Jeggo took the resulting corner, which was only cleared as far as the edge of the penalty area. Lurking there with intent was Malik, who thundered a twenty-yarder through the crowd which Moss saw late and did well to parry to safety.

United came close again in the 21st minute, with Malik picking out Goodwin on the left. His cross zoomed across the bows of the incoming figure of Djite, to which Wellington responded by taking the lead seconds later.

Jeffrey Sarpong – he played well – and the outstanding Roly Bonevacia combined to play in Krishna, who pulled his low cross-shot across the face of goal. From the resulting goal-kick, Powell’s pressure forced Hall to slice his clearance, and Riera swooped on the wayward ball to steer it into Krishna’s stride.

The speedster turned Malik and left the defender on his backside, pleading with referee Ben Williams for a free-kick. While the official gave the Adelaide man short shrift, Krishna was doing the same to United’s rearguard before setting up Bonevacia to rifle the ball into the far corner of the net from ten yards.

That goal stunned the visitors, but they were soon pressing for an equaliser of their own. Elrich played the ball down the line to Sergio Cirio, who fired in a cross to the far post where Goodwin was arriving on cue. Sigmund hooked his header to safety.

Around the half-hour, another flurry of goalmouth action had the gathered throngs on the edges of their seats. Bonevacia picked out Powell, who evaded Elrich and Malik, only for Krishna to take the ball off his team-mate and run straight into traffic – the concept of ‘team’ is seemingly lost on the Fijian striker when he gets his head down and sees nothing but ball.

Krishna’s loss of possession nearly had calamitous consequences. Cirio stormed downfield on a devastating sixty yard run past all and sundry, only to see his low cross from the by-line scrambled clear by desperate Wellington defenders as Djite looked to level the scores.

Back came Wellington, Krishna on the left this time, with Sarpong in close attendance. Upon receipt of his team-mate’s pass, the Dutchman beat Malik a treat before getting to the by-line, from where he delivered a cross to the far post for Powell to meet with a header.

Krishna, coming in from the left, had the same idea, and got to the ball first, only to direct a looping effort onto the roof of the net – he and Wellington would have been far better served had the better-placed Powell been given the chance to head goalwards.

Cue another Adelaide raid, a 34th minute attack which saw Jeggo pick out Goodwin with a lovely cross which the winger met superbly with a hip-turn volley. It flashed a yard past Moss’ right-hand post, and while his accuracy was slightly out, his technique was anything but – textbook stuff!

Six minutes before half-time, Malik was fortunate to escape a booking, let alone a red card for violent conduct, as he lashed out at Bonevacia, who had outsmarted both the defender and Elrich with a swift turn twixt the two of them.

A free-kick was the only punishment administered by referee Williams, and after recovering his senses, Bonevacia whipped in a gem to the near post, where Durante’s acute-angled effort was deflected straight to Hall.

Sixty seconds later, Elrich led another charge downfield before pinging another cross to the far post, where Goodwin was arriving on cue. Muscat’s timely intervention thwarted that particular opening from being closed in the manner the visitors desired.

Two minutes before half-time, Wellington came desperately close to extending their advantage, and once again Bonevacia was the architect of the opening, this time via a driving run from deep.

Krishna carried it on, taking the ball into the box before back-heeling it into the stride of Rodriguez, who, judging by his reaction, wasn’t expecting to receive the sphere via this means. It meant he was off-balance when shooting, and the ball soared into row Z as the midfielder put his hands to his face to hide his embarrassment.

The second half began with Moss twice saving long-range free-kicks from Goodwin, both of which arced over the wall from twenty-five yards or more in a ten-minute spell punctuated only by the ball finding the net once more – at the other end of the ground!

Wellington’s fans went nuts in the 51st minute as Rodriguez made amends for his late first half blemish by winning possession in midfield and presenting it to Bonevacia, who took the sphere on in his stride before unleashing a thirty yard exocet which slammed into the net as the static figure of Hall looked on, the ball a blur as it careered past him en route to making it 3-1 to the home team.

Once more, Adelaide reeled, and this time they looked like going under in a big way. Wellington piled on the pressure, with Bonevacia and Krishna combining for Sarpong to wriggle his way through three challenges before unleashing a twenty yarder which beat Hall ends up but hit the post in the 64th minute.

Two minutes later, another Sarpong effort foundered on a defender, after Rodriguez and Bonevacia had combined to good effect. Then it was back to the Bonevacia – Krishna ticket for Wellington, with the latter taking on Malik.

The defender halfted the striker’s progress, but substitute Michael Ridenton took over and got to the by-line, from where he whipped in a cross-shot which bisected the gap twixt Hall and his near post, yet somehow stayed out.

The newcomer wasn’t to be denied, however. In the 69th minute, Bonevacia caused United more chaos down their right flank before getting to the by-line and firing in a low cross for Krishna. Hall anticipated it well, but in parrying it away directed it straight into the stride of Ridenton, who gleefully steered home his first goal for Wellington, their fourth on the night.

The natives were ecstatic, and urged their charges on in pursuit of a fifth goal. Wellington’s players were just as keen to oblige, and only a timely Malik tackle, on the edge of the area, prevented Krishna from striking again twenty minutes from time.

Hall then blundered again, only to recover just in time as Krishna careered in, looking to take advantage of the custodian’s failure to control a back-pass. The ‘keeper redeemed himself eleven minutes from time, however, saving well to deny Sarpong after yet another wriggling run to the by-line by Bonevacia had opened up Adelaide’s right flank.

The Dutchman was in again four minutes later, Riera picking him out with a lovely pass. Bonevacia promptly turned between two defenders before unleashing what he hoped would be a hat-trick-clinching twenty-five yarder.

Hall was right behind the effort, as was the case when Krishna fired the home team’s last shot of the day in anger, four minutes from time, following yet more fine work by Bonevacia, unquestionably the game’s best-performed player.

In between these efforts, Adelaide had kept Moss busy, firstly when blocking superbly at the feet of Cirio after Elrich’s enterprising run past three players, then in keeping out a Marcelo Carrusca free-kick at the second attempt, the ball partly over the line when the ‘keeper finally came to grips with it.

But Moss was to be beaten once more, in the 89th minute. Cirio invited Goodwin to fire in a cross, which took a deflection skywards off Gulley. When the ball dropped, substitute Pablo Sanchez couldn’t miss a yard out from goal, and duly headed home a consolation goal which Adelaide’s attacking enterprise throughout proceedings merited.

Wellington’s efforts had proven more effective, however, and it’s to be hoped that the significantly improved crowd numbers, which rewarded the call to arms of the likes of #SaveTheNix and came along in their droves, will return to Westpac Stadium in such numbers in five weeks’ time, when Wellington next play at this venue.

Before then, Wellington’s next home game takes place [north, in North Harbour, Auckland] in three weeks at the infamously awkward-to-access QBE Stadium – particularly so for those Aucklanders who reside in the city’s eastern and southern population hubs, from where public transport links to the ground require one to set out at around 4.45pm to be there in time for a 7.30pm kick-off! (And don’t ask what time you get home again!)

Match details

Crowd: 13,654

Wellington Phoenix FC:     Moss (gk); Gulley, Sigmund (booked, 71), Durante (booked, 75), Muscat; Bonevacia, Riera, Rodriguez (booked, 60); Powell (Ridenton, 56), Krishna (Appiah, 87), Sarpong (Danaskos, 85 (booked, 69))
Coach: Ernie Merrick

Adelaide United FC: Hall (gk); Marrone (booked 17), McGowan, Malik, Elrich; Isaias, Mells (Carrusca, 65), Jeggo (booked 36) (Kamau, 62); Cirio, Djite (Sanchez, 80), Goodwin (booked, 65)
Coach:  Guillermo Amor Martínez

Points and ratings

Referee:    Ben Williams  6/10
Match  8/10
Pitch  8/10

3.  Bonevacia (WP)
2  Riera (AU)
1.  Krishna (WP) just ahead of Elrich (AU)

By Jeremy Ruane