Melbourne hit ten-man Wellington for six

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 12 – 2016/2017 – Round 4
7:50pm, Monday 31 October, 2016 – Docklands Stadium, Melbourne

Melbourne Victory FC 6 (B. Berisha 20′ pen, 22′ pen, 82′, M. Rojas 71′, 77′, M. Austin 90′)
Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (R. Krishna 63′ pen)

Melbourne Victory cast aside their recent woes arising from local derby despair to wallop a numerically challenged Wellington Phoenix 6-1 at Etihad Stadium on Halloween night, much to the delight of the 20,113 fans in attendance.

It was anything but for the bottom-placed visitors, however, winless Wellington capitulating in the final twenty minutes, during which four goals were scored by the home team against opponents who played the final half-hour of the match with ten men, following the dismissal of Dylan Fox.

Referee Alan Milliner was a significant factor in this contest, and not necessarily a good one. He set the tone for what was to come inside the first three minutes of play, during which time a reckless challenge by Rashid Mahazi on Michael McGlinchey only earned a yellow card – for out-and-out dangerous play – while Alan Baro’s challenge on Roy Krishna inside the penalty area was ignored, play on the verdict.

The ‘anything goes’ tone of proceedings was matched in the attack-minded nature of the match, with both goalkeepers, Melbourne’s Lawrence Thomas and Wellington’s Glen Moss, forced to dash out of goal and clear probing through balls before fast-closing front-runners could capitalise upon them inside the next four minutes.

Wellington produced the best move of the match thus far, in the eighth minute. Adam Parkhouse, Guilherme Finkler and McGlinchey were at the heart of it, with the second-mentioned delivering a low cross which Krishna back-heeled goalwards, but straight at Thomas.

Melbourne responded via a series of set-pieces, before referee Milliner bottled a red card incident. Mahazi foolishly left his foot in as he disputed a loose ball with Vince Lia, leaving the Wellington midfielder in need of treatment.

Incredibly, the official waved play on, despite this being Mahazi’s second bookable offence inside fifteen minutes. To compound his error, Milliner then stopped play so the injured Lia could be attended to, yet didn’t punish the perpetrator. Unbelievable!

Two goals in as many minutes, both from the penalty spot, put Melbourne in the box seat five minutes later. The first, in the twentieth minute, followed a clumsy foul by Roly Bonevacia on the well-performed Daniel Georgievski, while ninety seconds later, Fox was outfoxed by Besart Berisha into conceding a second penalty.

The offender was rather harshly booked on this occasion, while Berisha picked himself up, dusted himself down, and duly despatched the penalty into the same corner he’d thrashed the first one moments earlier.

Fox appeared to be on a suicide mission, as just three minutes later, he nearly felled Berisha in the area again, after a slick one-two on the left between Georgievski and Mitch Austin, who promptly invited Leigh Broxham to let fly from twenty-five yards.

This effort flew narrowly wide, while another bombastic challenge by Fox on Berisha eight minutes later flew even closer to the wind – referee Milliner must have been very tempted to send the defender off at this point, given this was his third moment of madness in just twelve minutes.

Fox remained on the park, for now, and looked to contribute in a positive way ten minutes before half-time, heading a Costa Barbarouses corner across the face of goal, moments before a Finkler free-kick was blocked to safety by Broxham as the visitors sought a way back into the contest.

Only a desperate challenge by Fox on the stroke of half-time prevented a Marco Rojas cross from picking out Berisha, who was unable to turn home the final chance of the half, after Austin had set him up following a corner.

Wellington changed their tactics for the second half, and they had the better of the exchanges during the first twenty minutes of it. Thomas was right behind a long-range Finkler free-kick in the 48th minute, while Barbarouses lashed a snapshot over the bar after Mahazi had another rush of blood to the head, this time in the form of a wayward back-pass which went straight to the former Melbourne striker.

Finkler and Barbarouses combined to present Bonevacia with a chance on the edge of the area in the 56th minute, which was in for all money until Thomas pulled off a superb fingertip save at full stretch to turn the shot over the bar.

Three minutes later, Fox committed one bookable offence too many, thus ending his evening. But Wellington initially made light of it, and dragged themselves back into the contest in the 63rd minute, Krishna belting home their first goal of the season from the penalty spot after he’d been felled in the area by Alan Baro, who became the second Melbourne name in referee Milliner’s notebook.

The visitors’ goal served as a wake-up call for Melbourne, and for the remaining twenty-five minutes, they proceeded to carve their numerically challenged opponents apart, with Rojas, in particular, relishing the open spaces now available to him.

Austin linked with the Kiwi in the 65th minute, but while Rojas’ pass to substitute James Troisi was cut out by Parkhouse on this occasion, it was another pass, two minutes, later, from which Melbourne should have restored their two-goal advantage.

McGlinchey’s awful free-kick struck a retreating Melbourne player and ricocheted straight to Berisha, who tore off downfield at a rate of knots, eventually finding himself with just Moss to beat. He did that all right, but unbelievably squandered this chance to complete his hat-trick by missing the target beyond.

Nineteen minutes from time, Berisha was central to Melbourne’s third goal of the evening, one which shouldn’t have been awarded. Mahazi swooped on a stray pass and looked to pick out the striker with a cross.

Andrew Durante got his head to the ball, but not enough to divert it to safety, prompting Berisha to surge goalwards once more. This time, Parkhouse came across in cover, only for the rampant Melbourne striker to unceremoniously shove the fullback aside with such vigour that Parkhouse was unable to continue, such was the extent of the injury he suffered on meeting terra firma.

How referee Milliner failed to see this infringement defies logic, a statement which equally applies to some of his other interpretations of the game’s laws in this match! Ironically, Berisha lost control of the ball in the process of overcoming the obstacle before him, but Rojas was on hand to take over and calmly steer the ball past Moss – 3-1.

Durante and Lia were apoplectic at the official’s incompetence in the immediate aftermath of the goal being awarded, and they joined Finkler, Jacob Tratt – his was a challenge which bordered on red card territory – and Fox in the referee’s notebook, for dissent on this occasion.

Melbourne, needless to say, got on with it, and after substitute Stefan Nigro had diced with danger by directing a back-pass to Thomas with Krishna perilously close by, they bagged a fourth goal thirteen minutes from time.

Jason Geria, Troisi and Broxham combined on the right, with Troisi looking to pick out Austin with his pass. Tratt cut it out, but succeeded only in directing the ball straight to Rojas, who promptly steered it straight into an empty net, Moss having dashed off his line to put himself in a position to deny Austin, had Tratt been beaten by the ball.

Wellington were threatened to implode at this point, with Troisi releasing Austin at pace down the left in the 79th minute. While his cross, intended for Berisha, was cut out by Lia, the resulting corner saw Mahazi thrash a twenty-five yarder narrowly over the bar.

Two minutes later, the home team went nap in comical fashion. There was no danger apparent when McGlinchey gathered in a loose ball inside Wellington’s half, but when he stumbled over the sphere, Troisi swooped and sent Rojas racing down the right, from where he picked out Berisha’s near post run. The finish, which completed his hat-trick, was exemplary, unlike Wellington’s capitulation.

Moss dashed out to save at the feet of the flying figure of Austin soon after, before Troisi curled one narrowly past the post and Nigro, after cutting inside off the left, saw a deflected effort flash past the upright as the home team piled on the pressure.

In between these goal threats came a rare Wellington attack, with Durante and Krishna combining with the overlapping Tratt, whose cross was headed out to Bonevacia. His twenty-five yarder sizzled past the upright to conclude an attack which was very much against the run of play over the last twenty minutes.

Normal service duly resumed, with Melbourne netting a sixth goal in stoppage time. Once more, it came from a Wellington error, Bonevacia directing a pass to Rojas, who surged forward once more before, with Berisha and Austin either side of him, opting for the latter.

Austin duly drilled the ball home from fifteen yards – a deserved goal for his display, and one which concluded the scoring in a quite remarkable match, with Melbourne’s 6-1 triumph the biggest of the season so far, a result which equalled Wellington’s second-heaviest defeat, one their schoolground errors certainly merited.

But one has to wonder how different things would have been had referee Milliner had the courage of his convictions where a couple of incidents in this contest from which Melbourne benefited were concerned.

Wellington’s capitulation in the last twenty-five minutes was bad, certainly, but the official’s inconsistent display was similarly sub-standard, and unquestionably had an adverse influence on the outcome of the match.

Match details

Crowd:  20,113

Melbourne Victory FC: Thomas (gk); Geria, Baro (booked, 62), Ansell, Georgievski (Nigro, 57); Broxham, Botanic (Troisi, 63), Mahazi (booked, 3) (Donachie, 84); Rojas, Berisha, Austin

Wellington Phoenix FC: Moss (gk); Tratt (booked, 52), Durante (booked, 72), Fox (booked, 21, 59 – sent off), Parkhouse (Fenton, 73); Bonevacia, Lia (booked, 72), McGlinchey; Barbarouses (Litfin, 80), Finkler (booked, 13) (Ridenton, 68), Krishna

Points and ratings

Match  7/10

Pitch  9/10

Referee  Alan Milliner  2/10  

Players points:
3. Rojas (MV)
2. Austin (MV)
1. Berisha (MV)