Cellar-dwellers stun hard-done-by Wellington

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 13
7pm, Thursday 31 December, 2015 (New Years Eve) – Central Coast Stadium, Gosford

Central Coast Mariners FC  3 (Fabio Ferreira 27′ pen, Mitch Austin 31’, Michael Neill 71’)
Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Blake Powell 67′)

Central Coast Mariners, the bottom-placed club on the Hyundai A-League ladder, scored a shock 3-1 win over Wellington Phoenix in front of 10,073 fans at Central Coast Stadium on New Year’s Eve, but should have ended the game with ten men on the park after striker Roy O’Donovan’s disgraceful head-butt on Manny Muscat wasn’t seen by the match officials.

Referee Kris Griffiths-Jones and his colleagues knew something had taken place in the 58th minute, because the crowd’s reaction to the incident was promptly followed up by a gathering of the clans as Wellington’s players understandably took umbrage at the Irishman’s retaliatory action, Muscat having fouled O’Donovan seconds beforehand.

The referee had to do something to placate the visitors, but a yellow card was all he could produce, given the incident hadn’t been seen by those in authority. Expect further action to come from the league’s disciplinary arm, who may well find reason to give Mr Griffiths-Jones a week’s rest also, as the penalty from which Central Coast opened the scoring should never have been awarded.

There had been little of note to write home about in the first twenty-five minutes of the contest, with Glen Moss smothering a couple of long-range efforts from Michael Neill and Fabio Ferreira as the home team chanced their arm in this time.

Wellington, who had the better of possession and territory in this period, saw Muscat direct a header past the post from a Michael McGlinchey corner, while a slick move involving the corner-taker, the overlapping Troy Danaskos and Kwabena Appiah-Kubi saw the first-time starter for the visitors denied by Tom Hewerd-Belle’s save at his feet.

The mood of the match changed in the 26th minute, when referee Griffiths-Jones got it completely wrong. Mitch Austin’s cross from the left picked out Ferreira, whose goalbound header struck the leg of Danaskos and rebounded into the heart of the penalty area.

Muscat had the advantage, but Josh Rose came in on his blindside and went down over the defender’s outstretched leg as Muscat was in the process of clearing the ball. How that could even be considered a foul defies logic, but referee Griffiths-Jones is well versed in the art of bemusing the masses with his interpretations of reality on a football pitch, and gave same more food for thought by pointing to the penalty spot.

To add insult to injury for Muscat, the referee promptly booked the defender, the third of nine yellow cards issued throughout proceedings. Ferreira thumped home the spot-kick into the roof of the net to the delight of the natives, who had yet to see their team win on home soil this season.

They looked odds on to do so on the half-hour mark, however, as Central Coast doubled their lead. O’Donovan got in behind Andrew Durante on the right – clumsy is the most kind description one can use to describe Wellington’s captain’s attempted clearance – and promptly set up Austin to ram the ball home on the far post – 2-0.

Five minutes later, O’Donovan, after showing great determination to beat Muscat to the ball in the air, gave the defender a little nudge out of the way near the touchline to allow the striker a clear run into the penalty area.

Durante blocked his shot, but Wellington were not best pleased that the officials hadn’t seen the offence, although their ire was no doubt partly stoked by their own shortcomings in failing to do a great deal with the possession they enjoyed – their final pass, in particular, was all too often found wanting.

The loss of Roy Krishna after half-an-hour – he rolled his ankle on the bumpy playing surface – didn’t aid the visitors’ cause either, and meant that Appiah-Kubi had to see out the entire match, despite the fact he was struggling with cramp for much of the second half.

Either side of the interval, Central Coast went close to increasing their lead still further. Moss smothered an Austin effort before the break, then looked on two minutes after it as the striker sent one into orbit when opting to take on a defender, despite Ferreira being in yards of space on his right with just the ‘keeper to beat.

A Ferreira cross five minutes into the second half picked out Michael Neill, who, in tandem with Jake McGing, did a superb job in subduing Roly Bonevacia’s influence on proceedings for Wellington.

On this occasion, the home team’s midfielder saw his shot on the turn blocked by Muscat, who was soon to have his run-in with O’Donovan which should have seen the game change, had the officials collectively been doing their jobs to the best of their abilities.

Just prior to the clash, Wellington had gone close to pulling a goal back after half-time substitute Matthew Ridenton worked a one-two with Appiah-Kubi and whipped in a cross which ricocheted off Harry Ascroft. Hewerd-Belle reacted well to divert the ball to safety.

While Wellington tempers simmered after O’Donovan’s let-off, Central Coast looked to rub salt into the wounds via a couple more attempts to increase their lead. Ferreira headed an Austin cross narrowly past the far post, while in the 63rd minute, Moss smothered an Austin drive.

Cue a riposte from the visitors which finally saw them make their mark on the scoreboard. McGlinchey came within inches of turning home Ridenton’s 64th minute cross, while from McGlinchey’s resulting corner, both Bonevacia and Appiah-Kubi were denied at close quarters by Hewerd-Belle – a fine double-save.

But he was beaten in the 67th minute, as Bonevacia and Rodriguez worked a one-two on half-way before the Dutchman brought Ridenton into play once more. The fullback’s angled cross was parried by Hewerd-Belle straight into the stride of Blake Powell, who made no mistake from three yards.

Three minutes later, 2-1 became 3-1 as Durante had a serious rush of blood to the head which cost his team any chance of salvaging something from the match. His quickly taken free-kick, intended for Vince Lia, was superbly anticipated by Neill, who swept past the midfielder and pounced on the ball before thrashing it between the scrambling figure of Moss and his near post.

Wellington’s ‘keeper had to make another save nine minutes later to keep out a twenty-five yarder from substitute Josh Bingham, three minutes after the visitors’ last chance to reduce the deficit again came to pass.

McGlinchey was splendidly thwarted by Storm Roux, however, and with that tackle went Wellington’s last hopes of ending 2015 on a positive note. They were a well beaten side well before the final whistle, in stark contrast to their conquerors, who celebrated just their second win of the season in style.

Match details

Crowd:  10,073

Central Coast Mariners FC :    Hewerd-Belle (gk); Roux, Poscoliero, Ascroft, J. Rose; McGing (booked, 8), Montgomery, Neill (booked, 90); Ferreira (Bingham, 67 (booked, 68)), O’Donovan (booked, 60) (Heffernan, 90), Austin (L. Rose, 78)

Wellington Phoenix FC:       Moss (gk); Gulley (Ridenton, 46), Muscat (booked, 27), Durante (booked, 60), Danaskos; Bonevacia (booked, 89), Lia (booked, 48), Rodriguez (booked, 25); Krishna (Powell, 31), Appiah-Kubi, McGlinchey

Yellow cards: McGing (CCM) 8’, Rodriguez (WP) 26’, Muscat (WP) 27’, Lia (WP) 48’, Durante (WP) 60’, O’Donovan (WP) 60’, Bingham (WP) 68’, Bonevacia (WP) 87’, Neill (WP) 95’

Referee:    Kris Griffiths-Jones

Ratings and points

Match  5/10
Pitch  5/10
Referee  2/10

Players points
3.  Neill (CCM)
2.  Austin (CCM)
1.  Ferreira (CCM)

By Jeremy Ruane