Wellington stun natives in Brisbane

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 12 – 2016/2017 – Round 21
4pm, Sunday 26 February, 2017 – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Brisbane Roar FC  1 (Borello 75′)
lost to
Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Smelz 32′, Krishna 60′)


Wellington Phoenix kept their Hyundai A-League play-off hopes alive at Suncorp Stadium on February 25, stunning Brisbane Roar 2-1 in front of 10,723 fans, the vast majority of whom had never seen the visitors win in Queensland’s capital before, something Wellington has achieved just once in their history prior to this victory.

There was no indication that there would be any alteration to that record in the early stages of this match, which were dominated by the home team, although Jade North was fortunate to escape a booking for an over-the-top tackle on Costa Barbarouses in the third minute, as Wellington looked to launch the first attack of the game.

Brisbane fired the first shot in anger five minutes later. Thomas Kristensen sprayed the ball wide to Brandon Borrello, who took on then bettered Adam Parkhouse before lashing a curling effort inches over the bar from the edge of the penalty area.

The visitors looked to take the lead in the tenth minute via a Barbarouses corner, which Brisbane initially failed to clear. Roy Krishna, despite having landed on his rump in the ensuing scramble, was still able to fire a shot in anger from his radar-challenging position.

Brisbane cleared their lines following this threat, and fired another shot in anger two minutes later, a tame one by Jamie Maclaren after he’d received a splendid pass from Cameron Crestani which allowed the striker to get the better of Andrew Durante.

The appalling playing surface was doing neither team any favours, and doubtless was a contributing factor in the premature departure of Marco Rossi from Wellington’s rearguard, his hamstring injury paving the way for Dylan Fox to make a rare appearance in yellow-and-black.

He was quickly up to speed, making a vital block within two minutes of entering the fray to foil Brett Holman in the act of shooting, after Maclaren and Thomas Broich had worked an opening with the sometime Socceroo.

Wellington launched a swift counter-attack down the left, with Vince Lia releasing Krishna down the left to the by-line, from where he looked to deliver a low cross to Shane Smeltz, arriving at the near post.

Michael Theo bravely foiled the striker’s intentions, and later plucked a Barbarouses free-kick off the head of Krishna as the visitors pressed again, not long after Glen Moss had made a fine save to deny Broich in a one-on-one situation, after the playmaker had worked a one-two with Borrello to burst into the penalty area.

Wellington stunned the natives by taking the lead in the 32nd minute. Krishna and Parkhouse combined on the left, with the overlapping fullback delivering a gem of a cross beyond the last defender, and right into the path of Smeltz, whose ten yard diving header arrowed past Theo and into the corner of the net.

The goal seemed to knock the stuffing out of Brisbane, and five minutes later Lia, having spotted Theo off his line, tried an ambitious sixty yarder which, had it gone in, would well and truly have knocked the home team out for the count.

But in the shadows of the half-time whistle, Brisbane roused themselves with a fine move featuring North, makeshift fullback Matt McKay, Holman and Broich, who was denied the chance to set up Maclaren by a fine piece of covering play by Lia, one of many who rose to the occasion for the visitors in this match.

Wellington had entered the contest without the services of Roly Bonevacia, Thomas Doyle and Ryan Lowry, who had all broken club protocol and were serving a one-week stand-down for their actions. It sent a message to their team-mates, who already needed to raise their game after recent performances, and as a result a solid Wellington performance unfolded.

Brisbane certainly tested their resolve to the limit, however, resuming their attack in the 48th minute via a slick move featuring Jack Hingert and Broich, whose enticing pass allowed Borrello to home in on goal, only to take one touch too many when a first-time shot could well have brought dividends.

The visitors cleared their lines, counter-attacking through Krishna and Barbarouses, whose measured cross invited Smeltz to head the ball down towards his Fijian team-mate. North intervened on this occasion.

Some brilliant improvisation by Broich in the 53rd minute – a clever lobbed pass towards Maclaren maintained the momentum of a move initially thwarted when covering defenders prevented the German from unleashing a shot – was followed at the other end of the park seconds later by a driving Alex Rodriguez run into the penalty area, after Matthew Ridenton and Jacob Tratt.

The midfielder was ultimately foiled by Theo, who turned his near post shot round the upright, moments before the unmarked Krishna slammed a twenty yard volley past the post after Rodriguez and Ridenton – both solid performers in this match – had instigated another smart move to create the opportunity.

On the hour, the home team were afforded a great chance by a stray pass from Tratt, which invited Maclaren to tear down the left and fizz in a low cross which was tailor-made for Borrello to turn home. Moss wasn’t having a bar of it, however, saving at the flank player’s feet.

Sixty seconds later, Wellington doubled their lead with a quite superb team goal, particularly when one takes into account the sub-standard playing surface. To string 22 passes together, culminating in a goal, was quite an achievement in the circumstances.

The move’s climax featured Barbarouses and Rodriguez combining well with Ridenton, who brought Smeltz into play. His angled ball wide for Barbarouses invited him to deliver a low cross on the run into the goalmouth, where Krishna arrived on cue to steer the ball home under pressure from six yards – 2-0, and a terrific goal at that!

Brisbane now had it all to do, and they set about the task with a vengeance, gradually forcing Wellington back into their half for the bulk of the match. Twenty minutes from time, McKay’s blistering twenty-yarder brought a scrambling save from Moss, while three minutes later the ‘keeper smothered a Borrello drive from five yards further out.

After Crestani intervened to foil a slick Wellington raid featuring Lia, Parkhouse, Krishna and Barbarouses, Brisbane dragged themselves back into the contest, Borrello curling home from the edge of the area fifteen minutes from time after substitute Kye Rowles had barrelled down the left before whipping in a cross which Durante failed to deal with, allowing substitute Joey Katebian to set up his goalscoring team-mate.

Straight away, Wellington looked to restore their two-goal margin, with Smeltz, Barbarouses and Ridenton linking on the right. The last-mentioned’s cross was blocked, but ricocheted towards the unmarked figure of Krishna, who rifled a volley across the face of goal.

Brisbane scrambled this threat to safety, and looked to create more of their own, but it was the visitors who carved out more clear-cut chances before the final whistle, the first of which materialised eight minutes from time.

A superb cross-field ball from Barbarouses picked out Krishna, whose deft back-heel invited Smeltz to take on the defence. He evaded one challenge, but found Borrello – what was he doing back there? – to be one obstacle too many.

Three minutes later, Ridenton picked out Hamish Watson in acres of space with a pass which the substitute blazed wildly wide of the target, after which Brisbane laid siege to the Wellington goal, with the visitors hanging on to their one-goal advantage as if their very lives depended on it.

Broich and McKay combined to good effect on the edge of the area, with the latter inviting Kristensen to deliver a cross. Lia’s timely interception thwarted that particular raid, while in the very last minute of stoppage time, a Broich free-kick brought about something resembling controlled chaos in Wellington’s penalty area.

A hefty clearance came to pass, and, with it, the sound of the final whistle – a shock win for Wellington, whose fans in the ground were denied the chance to indulge in their daft shirts-off celebration when their team is leading ten minutes from time by over-zealous fun police masquerading as stadium security staff, who considered their actions constituted a threat to the safety of patrons … (cue mass shaking of heads)!

Match details

Crowd:  10,723

Brisbane Roar FC:  Theo (gk); Hingert, Crestani (booked, 90), North, McKay; Kristensen, Broich, Caletti (Rowles, 62); Borrello (Brady, 87), Maclaren (Katebian, 70), Holman
Coach:  John Aloisi

Wellington Phoenix FC: Moss (gk);  Tratt (booked, 69) (Watson, 79), Durante, Rossi (Fox, 19), Park house (McGarry, 88 (booked, 90)); Lia, Ridenton, Rodriguez (booked, 57); Barbarouses, Smeltz, Krishna
Coach:  Des Buckingham

Points and ratings

Match     7/10
Pitch     3/10

Referee      Kris Griffiths-Jones   6/10

Player points:
3.  Barbarouses
2.  Lia
1.  Smeltz