Wellington hold Brisbane to surprise draw

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 14

7pm, Sunday 10 January, 2016 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 0
drew with
Brisbane Roar FC 0

Wellington Phoenix made light of their injury- and suspension-hit circumstances at Westpac Stadium on January 10, deservedly holding Hyundai A-League leaders Brisbane Roar to a scoreless draw in front of 7,774 fans, many of whom had come expecting the visitors to prevail quite comfortably.

Such are Wellington’s woes at present that only four members of what can be considered their first choice starting eleven were on the park when referee Stephen Lucas blew his whistle to get things under way, but Ernie Merrick’s misfits rose to the challenge and frustrated a Brisbane side which, as is their wont in most matches, dominated possession.

It was the home team who engineered the first chance of the match, however, a slick one-touch interchange featuring Jeffrey Sarpong, Matthew Ridenton and Albert Riera culminating in Michael McGlinchey setting up Ridenton for an eleventh minute opening which was swiftly closed by the timely challenge of Matt McKay.

Seven minutes later, Andrew Durante headed clear Jean Carlos Solorzano’s fiercely struck shot after he had cut in off the left. Durante would also be involved in Brisbane’s next attack, one swathed in controversy in the 32nd minute.

Jack Hingert’s cross picked out the head of Thomas Broich, who set a twelve yard header crashing against the bar. The rebound struck the arm of the retreating figure of Durante, and referee Lucas instantly signalled a penalty.

Wellington protested vehemently at the decision, Durante claiming he had been pushed from behind by Henrique. The referee consulted his assistant, whose view of what happened supported Wellington’s captain’s argument, and prompted referee Lucas to reverse his decision – when did you last see a referee do this?

Needless to say, Brisbane weren’t best pleased at this turn of events, but the official wasn’t going to change his mind again, prompting the visitors to step up their bid to break the deadlock.

A delightful free-kick routine five minutes later nearly had the desired effect. Corona played the ball short to Broich, whose angled pass in behind the defence invited Henrique to peel off the wall and deliver a low cross into the near post for Solorzano, who was only prevented from firing home by the desperate challenge of Blake Powell.

Two minutes later, Powell featured at the other end of the park, a result of Sarpong, Troy Danaskos and McGlinchey teaming up on the left. The last-mentioned whipped in a cross for the striker, which Jamie Young turned away at full stretch.

The ‘keeper’s denial sparked a Brisbane counter-attack, led by Henrique down the right. He surged towards the target before delivering a low cross into the stride of Solorzano, who was only denied the opening goal by Glen Moss’ outstretched leg on this occasion.

Wellington kicked off the second half, and within fifteen seconds had gone desperately close to opening the scoring. Sarpong scorched down the left, leading Hingert a merry dance before picking out Ridenton with a cross. The midfielder guided his header past the far post – a glorious chance spurned.

Cue constant Brisbane pressure, with Broich central to much of what they did which was good. His 58th minute pass invited Dimitri Petratos to let rip from twenty-five yards, but Moss proved equal to the challenge, turning his shot round the post.

Three minutes later, Petratos turned provider, angling in a superbly measured pass behind the defence and into the stride of Henrique as he dashed into the penalty area. He couldn’t supply the coup de grace, however, debutant Dylan Fox’s splendidly timed challenge thwarting the striker in the act of letting fly.

Moss then turned a Corona free-kick round the post, before the Spaniard’s resulting corner was cleared by Ridenton’s reflex back-heeled flick. This allowed the home team a brief respite from Brisbane’s relentless pressure, and they took the opportunity to threaten themselves, twenty minutes from time.

Substitute Kwabena Appiah-Kubi was the catalyst, his closing down of Daniel Bowles prompting a defensive error which saw the ball break invitingly for Powell, six yards out from goal. But under the pressure of a terrific challenge from Jade North, he skied a great chance to break the deadlock.

The final ten minutes of the match were wild, as both teams went all out to clinch a late winner. Appiah-Kubi pounced on a stray Brisbane pass and raced down the left, only to fire his cross-shot straight at Young, who grabbed a McGlinchey cross under pressure seconds later after Thomas Doyle had ignited another Wellington raid.

Back came Brisbane, Broich drawing a smothering save from Moss before the ‘keeper kept out a long-range effort from substitute Steven Lustica, a feat matched at the other end of the park three minutes from time by Young, who denied Powell’s twenty-five yard effort.

Desperate defending by Fox denied Javier Hervas as the game entered stoppage time, with McKay, Lustica and Broich having unhinged Wellington’s rearguard to invite the substitute to let fly from the edge of the penalty area.

Wellington instantly counter-attacked, Powell leading the charge downfield. Into the penalty area he surged before zipping a cross across the bows of the incoming figure of Appiah-Kubi – had he flung himself at the ball, a diving headed winner was almost certain.

The Wellington duo combined again seconds later, Powell’s pass this time inviting Appiah-Kubi to let fly on the turn. North blocked his shot at point-blank range, and prompted a final flurry from Brisbane, only for Moss to deny both Broich and Shannon Brady in the dying seconds of a well-contested affair, one from which Brisbane will be disappointed to emerge with just one point to show for their efforts.

Match details

Crowd: 7,774

Wellington Phoenix FC:    Moss (gk); Gulley (Doyle, 69), Fox (booked, 54), Durante, Danaskos; Lia, Riera, Ridenton (Stevens, 82); Sarpong (Appiah-Kubi, 65), Powell (booked, 55), McGlinchey

Brisbane Roar FC:    Young (gk) ; Hingert, Bowles (booked, 38), North, Stefanutto; Petratos, Corona (booked, 57) (Hervas, 72), McKay; Henrique (Brady, 82), Solórzano (Lustica, 74), Broich

Referee:    Stephen Lucas

Ratings and points

Match  7/10
Pitch  8/10
Referee  5/10

Players points:
3.  North (BR)
2.  Fox (WP)
1.  Riera (WP)

By Jeremy Ruane