Dire fare marks A-League opener

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


Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 1
3pm, Sunday 8 October, 2017 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Dario Vidosic 5′)
drew with
Adelaide United FC 1 (Johan Absalonsen 10′)

Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United produced a mind-numbing 1-1 draw at Westpac Stadium on October 8, as both teams commenced the 2017-18 Hyundai A-League season in discouraging fashion in front of 8,154 fans.

Neither side played well, after both scored inside the first ten minutes. Wellington got off to a flying start in the fifth minute, after Michael Ridenton’s free-kick was punched out by Paul Izzo to Roy Krishna, who chipped a cross from the by-line to the far post where Dario Vidosic rose unchallenged to head home across the recovering goalkeeper.

Three minutes later, rookie Wellington goalkeeper Keegan Smith was right behind George Blackwood’s drive, and promptly threw the ball out to Ali Abbas. He was caught in possession by Nikola Mileusnic, whose cross to the near post was deftly headed home by Johan Absalonsen, rising between defenders.

The equaliser gave United momentum, to which overlapping fullback Ben Garuccio was a key contributor. In the sixteenth minute, his cross on the run picked out Abslonsen, who was unable to guide his flicked near post effort on target.

After Marci Rossi had headed a pinpoint Ridenton free-kick over the bar, Adelaide’s pressure continued, with Karim Matmour and Mileusnic combining on the right. The latter’s cross wasn’t dealt with convincingly by Smith, who was put in trouble by Abbas on the half-hour.

Adelaide’s long balls forward were a feature of the match, and this one lured Smith towards the ball as the retreating fullback attempted to clear it. Abbas succeeded only in knocking the ball past his goalkeeper, a situation upon which Mileusnic quickly seized, hitting the outside of the post on the stretch from an acute angle.

Seven minutes later, another lobbed ball forward by the visitors wasn’t punched out well by Smith, the ball falling invitingly for Mileusnic. But with the goal looming invitingly twenty yards away, he misdirected his shot, much to Wellington’s relief.

The last act of note in the first half occurred at the other end of the park, with Wellington only prevented from regaining the lead six minutes before half-time by Izzo’s fine one-handed save, which denied Vidosic from six yards after he had beaten a defender upon being picked out by Alex Rufer’s measured pass.

The vast majority of the second half made for awful viewing, with anything resembling quality football conspicuous by its absence – hardly the sort of thing which will attract uncommitted supporters to follow either side, both of whom are under new management this season.

Even referee Chris Beath was caught up in the ineptitude, missing a glaring handball offence by Wellington striker Andrija Kaludjerovic which allowed him to control an Abbas cross and fire a shot towards the target ten minutes after the resumption of play. Thankfully, Adelaide blocked it to safety before venting their ire towards the official.

Eleven minutes later, Vidosic directed a volley at Izzo after Krishna had released him with a pass from half-way, four minutes after which the Fijian striker saw his twenty yard shot deflected to safety.

Back came Adelaide, who were only prevented from taking the lead fourteen minutes from time by a stunning reflex save by Smith, who stuck out a leg to block a close-range header from Blackwood after Mileusnic had picked out his team-mate with a cross.

Two minutes later, Michael Marrone cut in off the right before linking with the unmarked figure of Matmour. He set up Absalonsen for a shot which drifted past the target, much like Mileusnic’s injury time volley following an Isaias free-kick.

United had two more chances to take all three points in stoppage time, the pick of them seeing Ersan Gulum release Matmour down the left. He over-hit his cross, but Blackwood retrieved the ball and clipped it back into the danger zone, where Matmour was on hand to head over from six yards, seconds before Gulum stung Smith’s gloves from thirty yards, the final shot of a game best forgotten by both sides and all who watched it – dire fare.

Match details

Crowd: 8,154

Wellington Phoenix FC: Smith (gk); Galloway, Mullen (booked, 90), Rossi, Abbas; Ridenton, Paracki (booked, 49), Rufer; Krishna (Rogerson, 85), Kaludjerovic (Watson, 89), Vidosic (Parkhouse, 79)

Adelaide United FC: Izzo (gk); Marrone, Regan (Elsey, 63), Gulum (booked, 58), Garuccio; Isaias (booked, 18), Adlung (Konstandopoulos, 85), Matmour; Mileusnic, Blackwood, Absalonsen (Kitto, 85)

Points and ratings

Match 2/10
Pitch 8/10

Referee: Chris Beath 3/10

Player points

3. withheld – nobody merited it
2. Mileusnic (Adelaide)
1. Garuccio (Adelaide)