Western Sydney clinch home Semi-Final with Wellington win

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2016/2017 – Round 27 (last round)
Sunday 10 April, 2016 – Westpac Stadium

Wellington Phoenix FC 0
lost to
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2 ( Brendon Santalab 31′, 44′)


Western Sydney Wanderers clinched a second-placed finish – and a home semi-final – in the Hyundai A-League on April 10, 2016 by comfortably defeating Wellington Phoenix 2-0 at Westpac Stadium, where the majority of the 10,143 present had gathered to pay a final tribute to retiring defender Ben Sigmund and departing fullback Manny Muscat.

A couple of hundred of those present, however, had made the trip across the pond, determined to cheer on the former Asian Champions League winners to victory, even though they could no longer stake a claim to the Premiers’ Plate, which went the way of Adelaide United earlier in the weekend.

Wellington came close to silencing them just 83 seconds into the contest, however, but only after surviving two surging runs from Romeo Castelen inside the first sixty seconds.

The home team’s response to these early raids saw Blake Powell feed Roy Krishna through the inside right channel, from where the Fijian brought the best out of Andrew Redmayne at his near post.

Wests’ response was to earn what should have been a penalty in the third minute. How referee Shaun Evans deemed Tom Doyle’s clumsy challenge from behind on Brendon Santalab could be anything other than a spot-kick, only he will know.

Perhaps he didn’t want to reduce Wellington to ten men so early in the contest, as had he awarded a penalty, he would have also had to send off Doyle, who was the last defender … in short, the referee bottled it.

Wests continued to press, Castelen and Mitch Nicholls leading the charge, before the home team had the visitors rocking again, this time via a twenty-five yard Michael McGlinchey thunderbolt which crashed against the upright with Redmayne flailing vainly.

Suitably warned, the visitors pressed forward again, Doyle’s timely challenge denying Nichols near the by-line, after the midfielder had given Alex Rodriguez the slip. Another Castelen raid, in the seventeenth minute, saw the Spaniard thwart his progress, only for Dimas to take over. Sigmund deflected his shot to safety.

Castelen was a constant menace with his pace and movement, and came within inches of opening the scoring in the 24th minute after working a one-two with Nichols, to which Wellington responded by forcing two saves from Redmayne, Rory Bonevacia’s twenty yarder followed by an absolute screamer from Powell which was bound for the top far corner until the ‘keeper intervened in similarly stunning fashion.

Wests responded to this by opening the scoring sixty seconds later. Castelen was once more the architect for the visitors, this time getting to the byline before delivering a low cross to the near post which was bundled home by Santalab.

The same combination undid Wellington again a minute before half-time. Castelen set off on another driving run before feeding Santalab, who thrashed his shot across Glen Moss and into the far corner of the net to double Wests’ lead.

Straight from the kick-off, Wellington attacked, with Krishna sending a shot flashing across the face of goal as the home team looked to halve the deficit before half-time. After it, it was the visitors who held sway, Doyle heading Castelen’s goalbound header off the line following Dimas’ free-kick within a minute of play resuming.

Seven minutes later, Castelen scooted clear of two opponents and rampaged downfield before bringing Nicholls into play. The Dutchman was prevented from reaching the return by Doyle’s timely intervention.

On the hour, an offside Castelen – he wasn’t flagged – miscued a volley upon being picked out by Dimas. From the resulting goal-kick, Wellington stormed downfield, led by Krishna.

He picked out Bonevacia with a cross which the Dutchman smashed past Redmayne from twenty yards, only to see the ball cannon off the inside of the post and ricochet across the face of goal behind the ‘keeper. Krishna raced in and, from an acute angle, rammed the rebound into the side-netting.

Seconds later, McGlinchey whipped in a cross from the left which Krishna only just failed to get on the end of, an opportunity which turned out to be Wellington’s last of the season.

For Wests dominated the rest of the game, Mark Bridge lashing a twenty-five yarder narrowly past the post twenty minutes from time before playing his part in a lovely six-man move which deserved a goal. Sadly, Castelen smashed his shot the wrong side of the upright.

Sigmund was given a farewell war wound by the flailing elbow of Santalab fourteen minutes from time – again, weak refereeing meant the perpetrator didn’t receive the punishment befitting of the crime, and it also contributed to a gathering of the clans soon afterwards, as Bridge prevented Doyle from turning home Krishna’s corner.

In the dying minutes of the match, Muscat and Sigmund made their emotional exits from the club to which they have contributed so much since making their first appearances for Wellington in 2008.

There was still time for one last effort from Nicholl – it ricocheted off Dylan Fox to safety – but Western Sydney had long since fulfilled their part of the bargain, their 2-0 win confirming a home semi-final in a fortnight’s time, while concluding Wellington’s dismal campaign in fitting fashion – a thirteenth defeat in eighteen games, with just Central Coast Mariners below them on the table.

Match details

Crowd: 10,143

Wellington Phoenix FC :     Moss (gk); Muscat (booked, 41) (Fenton, 89), Sigmund (Fox, 89), Durante, Doyle; Bonevacia, Lia (booked, 56), Rodriguez; Powell, Krishna, McGlinchey (Watson, 69 (booked, 90))

Western Sydney Wanderers FC:     Redmayne (gk); Neville (Hamill, 46), Alberto, Topor-Stanley, Jamieson; Andreu, Nichols (booked, 31), Dimas (booked, 57); Castelen (Vidosic, 77), Santalab (booked, 76) (Cole, 84), Bridge

Referee:    Shaun Evans

Ratings and points

Match  6/10
Pitch  8/10
Referee  1/10 – he turned up, but gave the impression he wanted to be anywhere else but there

Player points

3.  Castelen – wouldn’t mind seeing him and Mooy in tandem. What a combo they’d make, Castelen’s pace and movement complimenting Mooy’s distribution
2.  Nichols
1.  Doyle