History made in Trans-Tasman stalemate

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 12 – 2016/2017 – Round 26
7:35pm, Saturday 8 April, 2016 –  Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (McGlinchey 90’+2)
drew with
Sydney FC 1 (Bobo 72′)

Wellington Phoenix and Sydney FC battled out a 1-1 draw in Hyundai A-League action at Westpac Stadium on 8 April, the first club match in history to have its destiny influenced by a Video Assistant Referee.

Jarred Gillett’s call that Wellington defender Marco Rossi was guilty of handling Michael Zullo’s corner in the penalty area twenty minutes from time, after Sydney’s players had protested loudly about the incident to referee Shaun Evans, who didn’t see the offence – and, presumably, the fact that Sydney defender Alex Wilkinson was climbing all over Rossi at the same time, prompting the Wellington defender’s action.

Bobo sent Lewis Italiano the wrong way from the penalty spot to finally break the deadlock in a contest which, in the first half, had been something of a damp squib, with both teams largely cancelling each other out.

The only incident of note in the opening twenty-five minutes of play saw Italiano execute a wayward attempt to head clear outside his penalty area. Alex Brosque was swiftly onto the loose ball, but by the time he fired goalwards, Italiano had resumed his position twixt the sticks and saved comfortably in this tenth minute episode.

Wellington had a decent spell around the half-hour mark. Roly Bonevacia picked out Roy Krishna on the right in the 28th minute, and he darted into the penalty area before drawing a fine save from Danny Vukovic, who raced smartly off his line to thwart Costa Barbarouses four minutes later, after more Bonevacia work on the left.

The Dutchman then went close himself sixty seconds later, Guilherme Finkler and Krishna working an opening which saw Bonevacia poking the ball past the near post, in what his likely to be his final home game for Wellington, with rumours abounding that he will be transferring to a West Island club in the close-season.

On the stroke of half-time, Vukovic twice more denied the home team, with Bonevacia and Finkler combining to play in Krishna on the left. His angled drive was turned round the post by Sydney’s custodian, who was well placed to foil Andrew Durante’s volleyed effort from Finkler’s resulting corner.

Sydney began the second spell brightly, a Michael Zullo cross inviting Alex Brosque to head goalwards in the 48th minute. Italiano grabbed this effort greedily, and looked on with relief two minutes later as Brosque thrashed a twenty yarder inches wide, Rhyan Grant and Filip Holosko having combined to engineer the opening.

Back came Wellington, with Bonevacia and Krishna combining on the left before the Fijian picked out Finkler with a cross. His cushioned lay-off invited Barbarouses to let fly, but Vukovic was right behind it.

The ‘keeper was rather relieved to see Finkler’s teasing cross-shot just clear the far post in the 54th minute, and after Grant had stung the gloves of Italiano, Barbarouses and Bonevacia’s slick one-two on the left on the hour mark culminated in Grant and Zullo blocking shots from Barbarouses and Finkler, as Wellington looked to give the 6,610-strong crowd a winning send-off.

Sydney had other ideas, however. Substitute Bernie Ibini-Isei – a terrific cameo – picked out Brosque on the edge of the six-yard box with a measured cross which saw the captain’s headed effort splendidly rebuffed by Italiano.

Ibini-Isei then combined with Brosque, Holosko and Grant in the 67th minute, the latter slipping the ball into the stride of overlapping fullback Aaron Calver before racing forward for the return, a measured cross which Grant headed narrowly over the bar.

Still Sydney pressed, Rossi’s vital block thwarting Brosque’s shot on the turn after Zullo had again led the charge on the left. The ball ricocheted off the defender for a corner, from which history resulted …

Soon after Bobo’s 72nd minute penalty opened the scoring, Wellington had decent penalty claims of their own, as Wilkinson’s sliding tackle got the ball then Krishna in Sydney’s penalty area, after Bonevacia and Barbarouses had combined well once more.

Referee Evans rebuffed the home team’s appeals, after which Sydney hit the crossbar twice in a four-minute spell. Zullo’s 78th minute corner was flicked on by Holosko for Brosque, who headed against the woodwork from four yards out.

The it was Zullo’s turn to threaten Italiano’s goal, his teasing cross deceiving the ‘keeper and ricocheting to safety off the crossbar, prompting Wellington to redouble their efforts in pursuit of an equaliser – a loss in this match, and their play-off hopes were done and dusted for another season.

They got their reward two minutes into stoppage time. Bonevacia linked smartly with Barbarouses on the right, and he fired over a cross beyond the far post to Thomas Doyle. His header inside was met by a glancing header from substitute Michael McGlinchey, whose deft touch guided the ball across Vukovic and in by the far post.

Buoyed by the equaliser – just the twelfth goal Sydney has conceded in 26 matches this season, Wellington went all out for a dramatic late winner against a team which has only lost once in the 2016-17 campaign. Bonevacia was again at the heart of things, threading the ball through to Krishna, whose 96th minute cross was blocked.

The Fijian then stumbled under Ibini-Isei’s mis-timed challenge, but referee Evans correctly deemed it not to be a foul. The ball broke for Bonevacia, who, with the last kick of the game, sent the ball flying over the bar to confirm a 1-1 outcome in this closely contested encounter.

It was certainly one which had its fair share of niggly nonsense and then some, not to mention the odd rough-house challenge – Matt Simon’s over-the-top lunge on Vince Lia in stoppage time definitely qualified on this score, and the offender was fortunate to see the yellow card being brandished, when one reflecting the colour of the blood flowing from Lia’s wounds was perhaps more appropriate.

Match details

Crowd:  6,610

Wellington Phoenix FC:   Italiano (gk), Lowry (Smeltz, 85), Durante, Rossi (booked, 71), Doyle; Lia, Finkler, Rodriguez (McGlinchey, 66); Barbarouses, Krishna, Bonevacia

Sydney FC:  Vukovic (gk); Calver (booked, 30) (Kuleski, 80), Buijs, Wilkinson, Zullo; Grant, Brosque (Simon, 88 (booked, 90)), Dimitrijevic; Holosko, Bobo, Carney (Ibini-Isei, 62)

Ratings and points

Referee:  Shaun Evans 5/10
Match: 4/10
Pitch:  7/10

Players points
3 .  Brosque
2 .  Bonevacia
1.  Zullo