Sydney sink Wellington with stoppage time winner

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 12 – 2016/2017 – Round 3
7pm, Sunday 23 October, 2016 –  Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 0
lost to
Sydney FC 1 (Milos Ninkovic 90’+2)

A last-gasp strike from Milos Ninkovic secured Sydney FC an undeserved 1-0 win over a Wellington Phoenix side which will be very disappointed not to have emerged from this bottom-versus-top clash in the Hyundai A-League on October 23 without at least a point to their name.

The 7,365 fans present at Westpac Stadium witnessed the home team’s best display of the season thus far, with Wellington all over the table-toppers like a rash from the kick-off.

Just four minutes in, Roy Krishna and Michael McGlinchey worked a lovely one-two on half-way which resulted in the Fijian flyer scampering down the left before firing in a cross for Costa Barbarouses. Only a fine covering challenge by Michael Zullo denied the striker the chance to open the scoring.

Seconds later, McGlinchey’s slide-rule pass into the penalty area allowed Krishna to get in behind Rhyan Grant and drill in a low cross intended for Barbarouses once more. This time, it was Alex Wilkinson who saved the day for Sydney.

Further pressure followed, with Wilkinson’s awkward back-pass to Danny Vukovic inviting Krishna to race in and put pressure on the ‘keeper, who cleared his lines in the nick of time.

Sydney were afforded a rare attack in the tenth minute when Marco Rossi’s stray pass invited Filip Holosko to set sail for goal. Andrew Durante’s intervention ensured that the first save Glen Moss would have to make would be from David Carney’s 22nd minute header, following a Holosko-led raid on the right.

Before then, however, Wellington had the ball in the back of the net, only for the deft near post finish of McGlinchey to be ruled out by the offside flag in the fourteenth minute.

Further pressure from the home team materialised six minutes later, with Guilherme Finkler feeding Barbarouses on the left. He cut inside before floating a cross beyond all-comers in blue to Krishna, who drilled his low shot narrowly past the near post.

The Fijian was in again sixty seconds later, this time turning provider for Roly Bonevacia. Barbarouses nipped in and nicked the ball off the Dutchman’s toes, only to shoot straight at Vukovic.

Bonevacia and Finkler combined for Krishna’s benefit in the 26th minute, as the home team continued to pile on the pressure. His fierce drive was parried by Vukovic, with the massed ranks of Sydney’s defence combining to prevent Krishna from capitalising on the rebound.

Sydney attacks were as rare as hen’s teeth in the first spell, with their third and final raid of the half coming twelve minutes before the interval. Matt Jurman surged out of defence past four players before releasing Carney in space on the left. Into the penalty area he powered, before thrashing a near post drive which Moss did well to turn over the bar.

Back came Wellington, via a succession of Finkler corners. The first of them resulted in Bonevacia’s twenty-five yard volley ricocheting off a defender for another corner, which the Brazilian delivered onto the head of Tom Doyle.

The fullback, who was to be removed from the fray at half-time with a groin problem, met the ball at the near post with a terrific header, only for Vukovic to match it with a fingertip save onto the upright.

Five minutes before half-time, Doyle went close with another header from another Finkler corner, while a cross to the far post from the playmaker in the 41st minute saw Krishna haring in to head it home, only for Vukovic to tip the ball to safety.

Three minutes before half-time, Barbarouses threaded the ball through to Krishna, who duly tucked it home, only to have his celebrations cut short by the offside flag – somewhat harshly, it must be said.

It was a VERY close call made by A-League debutant Sarah Jones, New Zealand’s first female referee’s assistant in this competition. She’s no novice, however – you can count the number of A-League match officials who have been appointed to run the line in a FIFA World Cup semi-final on the fingers of one hand, so she’s far better qualified than most to make such tight decisions.

Sydney boss Graham Arnold clearly read the riot act to his charges during the interval, as they were a much improved team in the second spell. The first chance fell to the home team, however, with Finkler and Barbarouses combining on the right, only for the latter’s cross to neatly bisect the runs of Krishna and McGlinchey in the 55th minute.

After Bobo had seen a shot deflected to safety, Krishna landed a header on the roof of Sydney’s net on the hour, a result of Jacob Tratt – his best game in yellow-and-black to date – heading on a Barbarouses corner. Moments later, Tratt went for goal himself, heading narrowly wide from another set-piece delivery from the All White speedster.

Sydney began to get on top of things, however, with substitute Matt Simon guiding his 76th minute header at Moss, following Ninkovic’s good work on the right. Seconds later, Carney was released by Jurman on the left, then cut inside before curling a shot inches past the far post as the league leaders got up a head of steam late in the match.

After another tight offside call went against Wellington – Barbarouses was the player denied this time, Sydney continued to press for a late winner. Solid defence denied Ninkovic as he looked to capitalise on Simon beating Durante in the air, while Moss was perfectly placed to deny Jurman’s fifteen yard header from a Carney corner, as the game entered stoppage time.

Two minutes into it, the visitors struck the winner. Zullo’s floated cross caught Rossi ball-watching, and found Simon completely unmarked in the penalty area. He headed the ball across and down for Ninkovic to steal in and stab the ball home from close range.

Wellington strove for a dramatic equaliser, with Bonevacia and Tratt linking to good effect on the right. But with the last act of the match, substitute Matt Ridenton headed the fullback’s cross over the bar, much to the relief of Sydney, who in clinching their third win in as many matches, condemned Wellington to a third successive defeat this season, and a seventh straight defeat all told.

This, however, was a game they didn’t deserve to lose.

Match details

Crowd: 7,365

Wellington Phoenix FC:  Moss (gk); Tratt, Durante, Rossi, Doyle (Parkhouse, 46); Bonevacia, Lia, McGlinchey (booked, 88); Barbarouses (Ridenton, 90), Finkler (Watson, 79), Krishna

Sydney FC: Vukovic (gk); Grant (booked, 38), Wilkinson, Jurman (booked, 43), Zullo; Brilliante, Ninkovic, O’Neill (booked, 62); Holosko (booked, 58) (Brosque, 61), Bobo (Simon, 71), Carney

Ratings and points

Referee: Kurt Arms 6/10
Match  7
Pitch  8

Players points:
3  Krishna
2  Carney
1  Barbarouses