Wellington celebrate Licence with win over Melbourne

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 21
7:30pm, Friday 26 February, 2016 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Louis Fenton 12′, Matthew Ridenton 15′)
Melbourne City FC 1 (Aaron Mooy 19′)

Wellington Phoenix pulled off a shock 2-1 victory over Melbourne City at Westpac Stadium on 26 February, as the club celebrated the extension, for up to ten years, of its Hyundai A-League licence, and captain Andrew Durante’s 200th appearance for the club.

6,591 fans braved the typically windy Wellington weather for a match which, had they won it, would have seen Melbourne City topping the A-League table for the first time, even if it was for a brief period of time before other matches in the round were completed.

Instead, they saw Wellington fire a shot across Melbourne’s bows in the second minute of play – Tom Doyle’s corner wasn’t cleared, prompting a shot on the turn from Michael McGlinchey which Thomas Sorensen blocked at his near post.

The home team then struck twice in as many minutes, with the goals coming from two players who were named on the flanks of a side which took to the field without a recognised striker on the park., injuries and suspensions having ruled out all the usual suspects in this area of the pitch.

McGlinchey was the catalyst for the twelfth minute opener, beating an opponent before whipping in a sumptuous low cross in behind the defence for Louis Fenton to slide home.

Two minutes later, a goal similar in style unhinged City again, this time from the right flank. Roly Bonevacia was the architect this time round, evading a challenge before whipping in a delicious low cross to the near post, twixt the defence and Sorensen.

The ‘keeper had it covered, but hadn’t reckoned on Matthew Ridenton stealing in on the blind side of the defence to beat him to the punch and flick the ball home from close range – 2-0.

Melbourne weren’t going to take this lying down, and within five minutes, they were back in the contest courtesy Aaron Mooy. His thirty-yard free-kick ricocheted off the wall and completely wrong-footed Glen Moss – 2-1, game on!

Three minutes later, the visitors were wondering how they hadn’t equalised. Mooy played a delightful through ball into the stride of the league’s leading scorer, but Bruno Fornaroli met his match in Moss, who blocked superbly at the striker’s feet.

Fornaroli quickly latched onto the rebound, only to see his next shot blocked by Dylan Fox. The rebound fell invitingly for Adrian Caceres, whose thunderbolt was blocked on the line by Durante. And from Mooy’s resulting corner, Nick Fitzgerald hit a screamer which careered inches past the far post.

Eleven minutes before half-time, Mooy had to take a free-kick twice – the wind was making dead-ball situations very difficult to execute, with the ball being blown off its spot time and again. When he did unleash, Moss turned his effort round the post.

City had strong claims for a penalty on the stroke of half-time when Fornaroli went down under Durante’s challenge, but referee Matt Conger, who had his hands full throughout this match dealing with a host of overly physical challenges, allowed play to continue on this occasion.

Melbourne changed their goalkeeper at half-time, and Dean Bouzanis was soon called into action, averting the danger posed by Ridenton at the near post as he looked to head home a Doyle cross, the overlapping fullback having been released by Albert Riera five minutes into the second spell.

Eight minutes later, and after a duck, of all things, had briefly graced the pitch, Mooy uncorked another thirty-two yard free-kick, this time being denied by the crossbar – City’s playmaker had an impressive game, but City’s execution was not what it could have been, a case in point being Ivan Franjic’s shot straight at Moss on the hour, after he had combined with Fitzgerald to carve open Wellington’s left flank.

Two minutes later, Manny Muscat – his best game in ages – produced a delightful cameo, weaving through three challenges before delivering a slide-rule pass through City’s defence which put Ridenton in on goal with just Bouzanis to beat.

The ‘keeper prevailed, and did so again ten minutes later when Bonevacia cut in from the left and let fly. In between times, Melbourne substitute Jacob Melling scythed down the right before firing in a cross which careered across the goalmouth, with both Fornaroli and Caceres a couple of strides away from capitalising upon it.

Fourteen minutes from time, Ridenton chased down a through ball from McGlinchey to set up a chance for Bonevacia, which he directed straight at Bouzanis. This prompted concerted efforts from City in their pursuit of an equaliser, but in the time remaining, they mustered just two openings.

The first followed a Mooy corner, which Moss punched out ten minutes from time. Melling was the recipient of the clearance, and played the ball wide to Fornaroli, who thundered a shot narrowly past the far post.

Then with three minutes to go, Mooy played fullback Michael Zullo in down the left, and his cross was spilled then swiftly regathered by Moss, the last opportunity City created in a match which most punters would have had down as an away banker, but which saw Wellington upset the formbook as they celebrated a guaranteed four more years – and potentially another decade – in the Hyundai A-League.

Match details

Crowd:  6,591

Wellington Phoenix FC: Moss; Muscat (booked, 83), Fox (booked, 41), Durante, Doyle; Bonevacia, Riera, Rodriguez (Gulley, 67); Fenton (booked, 25), McGlinchey (Appiah-Kubi, 89), Ridenton (Sigmund, 85)

Melbourne City FC: Sorensen (Bouzanis, 46); Franjic, Kisnorbo (booked, 4), Wilkinson, Zullo (booked, 35); Caceres, Malik, Mooy; Fitzgerald (Brown, 64), Fornaroli, Garuccio (Melling, 64)
Referee: Matt Conger

Ratings and points

Match  6/10
Pitch  8/10
Referee  5/10

Player points
Manny Muscat  (WP) 3
Aaron Mooy (MC) 2
Andrew Durante (WP) 1