Champions to the Four against cellar-dwellers

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 12
5:35pm, Saturday 23 December, 2017 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Andrija Kaluderovic 40′)
lost to
Sydney FC 4 (Bobô 17′, 58′, 86′, Adrian Mierzejewski25′)


Reigning Hyundai A-League champions and runaway leaders Sydney FC rarely got out of second gear at Westpac Stadium on December 23 as they eased to a 4-1 victory over Wellington Phoenix, who remain rooted to the bottom of the table.

At the end of a week which saw the home team part company with assistant coach Rado Vidosic and, as a consequence, his son, striker Dario Vidosic, Wellington needed the visit of the runaway leaders like the proverbial hole in the head.

Sure enough, within three minutes, the visitors should have been lining up a penalty, after Goran Paracki handled a Joshua Brillante cross inside the area. But referee Chris Beath and his assistant were unsighted, and after last week’s debacle, the use of the Video Assistant Referee has been revised, so was not called upon.

Had it been, Sydney would almost certainly have opened the scoring, something they eventually did in the seventeenth minute. The outstanding Adrian Mierzejewski released Michael Zullo down the left at pace, and the overlapping fullback’s ball into the near post was expertly turned home by Bobo – 1-0.

Wellington responded via their lone attacking outlet, Andrija Kaludjerovic, who headed an Adam Parkhouse cross from the right past the near post seven minutes later.

From the resulting goal-kick, Sydney doubled their lead. Zullo worked a one-two with Brandon O’Neill before sending Bobo dashing down the left, from where he delivered a measured cross to the far post. Arriving on cue was Mierzejewski, who expertly steered the ball home from six yards – 2-0.

At this rate, the score could have ended up being anything, so inept were Wellington and so in-form their guests. But Sydney opted to stay in second gear, and as a result, there wasn’t a great deal to write home about throughout the rest of the first half.

Until five minutes before its conclusion, that is, when, out of nowhere, Wellington halved the deficit. Alex Rufer played the ball wide to Scott Galloway, whose cross picked out Kaludjerovic. His looping twelve yard header arced over Andrew Redmayne to give the home team hope.

Bolstered by the goal, Wellington began the second spell brightly, with Redmayne having to deal with efforts from Paracki, Matthew Ridenton and Michael McGlinchey inside the first ten minutes of the half.

But Sydney weathered this brief storm, and hit back with venom aplenty. Lewis Italiano spilled a Mierzejewski free-kick, presenting Jordy Buijs with the chance to restore the visitors’ two-goal advantage.

Paracki blocked this 57th minute effort, but sixty seconds later, the visitors were celebrating again. O’Neill burst onto a loose ball in midfield and fed Mierzejewski, who rolled the ball across the top of the penalty area. Bobo had to stretch for it, but expertly steered it past Italiano – 3-1.

Four minutes later, Wellington muffed a glorious chance to bag a second goal. McGlinchey sent Rufer racing down the left, from where he picked out Parkhouse with a low cross. Instead of shooting first time, he took a touch to control the ball before pulling the trigger, only for Redmayne to block the shot with his legs.

Marco Rossi scrambled clear after Mierzejewski, O’Neill and Bobo combined to set up Alex Brosque soon afterwards, while at the other end of the park in the 67th minute, Thomas Doyle’s cross was just too high for Kaludjerovic to head home his second goal of the game.

Twenty minutes from time, Mierzejewski did well to retain possession, and having done so, brought O’Neill into play. He switched the ball across to Luke Wilkshire on the right, from where the fullback picked out substitute David Carney with a cross. The newcomer’s header was smothered by Italiano.

Wellington had also turned to their bench by this time, and youngster Sarpreet Singh made a sound impact on proceedings, particularly in the 73rd minute, when his curling twenty-five yard shot on the run beat Redmayne all ends up, only to crash against the ‘keeper’s right-hand post.

That gave the home team renewed optimism, and before the final whistle, Redmayne had been called upon to keep out a header from Doyle and a McGlinchey free-kick. In between times, however, Sydney completed the scoring, Bobo wrapping up his hat-trick four minutes from time when heading home Carney’s cross to cap off the title-holders’ 4-1 victory.

The win maintains Sydney’s five-point advantage over second-placed Newcastle Jets, and they are now a staggering twelve points clear of third-placed Melbourne City after twelve rounds of action. Wellington, of course, are adrift at the bottom of the table, and failed to reveal the attendance figure for this match, a sure sign that it wasn’t a great turn-out.

Match details

Crowd: tba

Wellington Phoenix FC: Italiano (gk); Galloway, Mullen, Rossi (booked, 6), Doyle; Paracki, Ridenton, Rufer (Singh, 69); Parkhouse (booked, 56) (Rogerson, 87), Kaludjerovic, McGlinchey

Coach: Darije Kalezić

Sydney FC: Redmayne (gk); Wilkshire, Buijs (booked, 47), Wilkinson, Zullo; Brillante, Brosque, O’Neill; Ninkovic (Carney, 65 (booked, 88)), Bobo (Lokolingoy, 87), Mierzejewski

Coach: Graham Arnold

Points and ratings

Referee: Chris Beath 4/10

Match 5/10
Pitch 8/10

Player points
3. Mierzejewski
2. Bobo
1. O’Neill