Late goals liven up dour duel

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 11
7:15pm, Saturday 19 December, 2015 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Roy Krishna 90′  pen)
drew with
Sydney FC 1 (Filip Holosko 84’)

A dramatic finale to proceedings at Westpac Stadium on December 19 saw Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC battle out a 1-1 Hyundai A-League stalemate in front of 10,027 fans, whose patience was tested for large periods of a generally sterile encounter.

The first twenty minutes in particular were very cagey, with the visitors establishing the upper hand via shots in the second minute from Matt Simon, and in the eleventh minute from Filip Holosko, a thumping twenty-five yarder which Glen Moss parried to safety, having smothered the earlier effort.

Sydney spurned a golden chance to open the scoring when Simon went down in Wellington’s penalty area without contact being made by Moss as a one-on-one situation unfolded.

Manny Muscat’s untimely stumble allowed the striker, with Holosko in support to his left, to dash through with just Moss to beat. The bounce of the ball appeared to play a part as Simon’s attempt to round the goalkeeper saw him lose his footing at the vital moment, the chance going begging as a result.

Jeffrey Sarpong went down in Sydney’s penalty area under pressure soon afterwards, but referee Peter Green wasn’t interested in Wellington’s penalty claims. Unperturbed, the home team pressed on, Michael McGlinchey breaking down the left before picking out Sarpong with a cross which allowed the Dutchman to swivel and shoot from eight yards.

Vedran Janjetovic produced a fine reflex save low to his right to keep this effort out, then looked on with relief as Roly Bonevacia sliced a shot across the face of goal after Krishna had intercepted a pass and raced on before pulling the ball back into the stride of the midfielder.

There was very little quality play from either team throughout this match, with stray passes, interceptions, solid defensive work and poor option-taking combining to stop the game from developing any sort of cohesion or flow. It certainly wasn’t an easy game to watch.

Ten minutes before half-time, referee Green denied Sydney a clear corner, much to the disgust of visiting coach Graham Arnold. Holsoko sent the overlapping Sebastian Ryall rampaging down the right into the penalty area, where he looked to pick out Andrew Hoole lurking on the far post.

Muscat’s despairing lunge to divert the ball to safety proved fruitful for Wellington in more ways than one, the officials failing to see the defender’s touch, thus awarding the home team a goal-kick. The visiting players were not happy campers, and soon after, referee Green brandished the first of nine yellow cards in the match.

The less said about Holosko’s 39th minute effort, the better – high, wide and far from handsome was the outcome after Hoole and Milos Ninkovic had combined to unhinge Wellington’s defence.

How that strike contrasted with Brandon O’Neill’s sumptuous twenty-five yard free-kick on the stroke of half-time. Perfectly executed, it arced over the wall then dipped, beating Moss’ dive, only to cannon back off the crossbar, much to Wellington’s relief as they scrambled the danger to safety.

Having come within inches of breaking the deadlock at the end of the first half, Sydney required just two minutes of the second spell to engineer an even better opportunity, although it was a penalty which should never have been given – Mr Green did not have his finest hour-and-a-half in this match, make no mistake!

Hoole nutmegged Louis Fenton – later to leave the fray with ankle ligament problems – as he charged into the penalty area, then took the ball past the fast-arriving figure of Muscat en route to the by-line.

He never got the chance to cross it, however, as he had an appointment with terra firma courtesy Muscat just clipping Hoole’s trailing leg as he pulled out of the challenge.

Wellington weren’t happy with the sight of the referee pointing to the penalty spot, but were soon smiling again, Moss producing a superb one-handed save low to his right to turn Hoole’s spot-kick round the post.

After this, the arm wrestle continued, with Wellington surviving a scare on the hour as Holosko escaped Thomas Doyle’s clutches and fizzed a low cross across the face of goal which Hoole would have been on hand to turn home, had he not changed the angle of his run just as the cross was delivered.

Wellington instantly counter-attacked, Sarpong producing the pass of the match to split Sydney’s defence and release the overlapping figure of Fenton down the right. His cross targeted Krishna’s arrival at the near post, but Janjetovic – resplendent in an all-pink outfit – anticipated the danger well.

After Muscat and Doyle had combined to thwart a shot from the unmarked Ninkovic following a short corner, Wellington produced a delightful move in the 65th minute which featured Alex Rodriguez, Sarpong and Krishna, whose angled ball through allowed McGlinchey to get to the by-line and pull the ball back into Bonevacia’s stride. He stabbed the ball past the near post.

Straight away, Sydney counter-attacked – the game was beginning to open up a touch – through Holosko, whose cross to Simon was flicked on for the fast-arriving figure of Hoole to tuck home.

Moss was wise to that threat, however, as was Janjetovic at the other end of the park nineteen minutes from time, as he turned a Krishna shot round the post to curtail a sharp moving featuring Albert Riera, Bonevacia and McGlinchey.

Ten minutes from time, another O’Neill free-kick unhinged Wellington, and found three Sydney players unmarked with just Moss between them and the target. Captain Jacques Faty rose to head home, but the ‘keeper produced another superb save to keep the visitors at bay.

He had no chance of repeating the dose in the 84th minute, however, as Sydney finally broke the deadlock. It needed a bit of brilliance to do so, and it was Holosko who provided it, scything in between two defenders off the right wing before curling a gem of a fifteen-yarder around the flailing fingertips of Moss and perfectly into the far corner of the net.

It looked like being the match-winner, but Wellington had other ideas. Two minutes from time, yet another foul resulted in a McGlinchey free-kick arcing its way into the area.

As it did, however, Faty wrestled Doyle to the ground, giving referee Green no option but to award another penalty. This time, Krishna made no mistake, sending Janjetovic the wrong way to level the scores, 1-1 in the 89th minute.

Injury time saw chances materialise at both ends of the park – where had this creativity been for the bulk of the ninety minutes? Riera pounced on a loose ball and played in Krishna, who drilled a twenty-yarder at Janjetovic when Rodriguez was in space to his left.

Sydney responded straight away through substitute George Blackwood, who slalomed his way through Wellington’s penalty area to the by-line, only for his cross to be cleared by fellow replacement Vince Lia to ensure there would be no late winner for the visitors, who will be disappointed to have dropped points in a match from which the home team barely deserved any reward, so subdued was their display.

Match details

Crowd: 10,027

Wellington Phoenix FC:      Moss  (gk); Fenton (booked, 55) (Danaskos, 67), Muscat, Durante (booked, 79), Doyle (booked, 86); Bonevacia (Powell, 82), Riera (booked, 41), Rodriguez; Sarpong (booked, 74), McGlinchey (Lia, 90), Krishna

Sydney FC:    Janjetovic (gk); Ryall, Faty, Jurman, Grant; O’Neill, Tavares, Ninkovic (booked, 37) (Dimitrijevic, 87), Hoole (booked, 52) (Naumoff, 73); Simon (booked, 80) (Blackwood, 83), Holosko (booked, 88)

Referee:    Peter Green

Ratings and points

Match 4/10
Referee 3/10
Pitch 8/10

Players points:
3.  Moss (WP)
2.  Holosko (SFC)
1. Muscat (WP)

By Jeremy Ruane