Ljujic Screamer pegs back ‘Wests’

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 16
7:35pm, Saturday 13 January, 2018 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Matija Ljujic 75′)
drew with
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1 (Brendon Santalab 28′)


A thumping thirty yard equaliser from new signing Matija Ljujic fifteen minutes from time earned Wellington Phoenix a 1-1 draw with Western Sydney Wanderers at Westpac Stadium on January 13, as the visiting side concluded the contest with ten men on the park.

Wests dominated possession throughout the first half, and first threatened in the seventh minute when Wellington old boy Roly Bonevacia caught Goran Paracki in possession and gave Oriol Riera a shooting opportunity.

He didn’t take it, so possession was recycled to Jack Clisby, whose cross picked out the head of Brendon Santalab, no stranger to scoring goals in this fixture. On this occasion, his radar was off, as he guided his header wide of the far post.

Wellington responded in vigorous fashion. Matthew Ridenton and Michael McGlinchey combined to present Andrija Kaludjerovic with his first opening in the ninth minute, but Brendan Hamill’s intervention put paid to the prospect of that particular opportunity proving prosperous.

Seconds later, Roy Krishna won the ball in midfield and fed McGlinchey before racing forward in anticipation of a return pass. It duly arrived, but the Fijian’s low tenth minute drive was turned round the near post by Vedran Janjetovic.

Two minutes later, Kaludjerovic won the ball in the centre circle and the ball swiftly moved between Krishna and Ridenton to the overlapping Thomas Doyle, whose cross had Kaludjerovic’s name written all over it until Michael Thwaite intervened at the perfect moment for Wests.

Despite having little ball, Wellington continued to create chances, Kaludjerovic firing narrowly past the post on the quarter hour after Daniel Mullen and Krishna had teamed up on the right.

McGlinchey then squandered a great chance after Ridenton played him in through the inside left channel, before Marco Rossi burst out of defence before teaming up with Kaludjerovic to send McGlinchey scooting through the inside left channel. After evading a challenge, he fired straight at Janjetovic, who was covering his near post.

The deadlock was broken in the 28th minute byt the team which had enjoyed the bulk of possession, but hadn’t really done a great deal with it. All that changed when Raul Llorente’s free-kick wasn’t cleared, allowing Santalab to unleash the perfect hip-turn volley from fifteen yards. It was too hot for Lewis Italiano to handle – 1-0 Wests.

And so very nearly 2-0 soon after, with Italiano narrowing the angle well to force Mark Bridge to fire inches past the far post, after he had been sent racing down the left by Hamill.

Wests attacked down the right in the 32nd minute, Bonevacia bringing Llorente into play. His early cross picked out the head of Riera, whose looping header had Italiano back-pedalling to tip the ball over the bar.

Six minutes from time, a curling effort from Riera was punched out by Italiano, while on the stroke of half-time two well-timed tackles by Andrew Durante thwarted both Santalab and Steve Lustica and sparked a Wellington counter-attack, with Ridenton and Mullen combining for Krishna’s benefit, at least until Thwaite stepped in once more.

The half-time introduction of Nathan Burns and Ljujic brought about a tactical change by Wellington which allowed them to dominate the early stages of the second spell, during which time Krishna hit the side-netting and Kaludjerovic saw a goalbound shot blocked to safety by Hamill.

Wests responded by introducing new signing Marcelo Carrusca to the fray, and much to Wellington’s relief, Santalab, their nemesis, was the man to make way. The scorer was not best pleased at being withdrawn from the action, a fact betrayed by his very slow departure from the pitch.

Referee Stephen Lucas, who let a lot of things go in this match, made no effort to hurry the dawdling veteran on his way. The official had a real mixed bag of a game, but he got one thing spot on – at no stage did he turn to the Video Assistant Referee to help him do his job! (No, I am not a fan – the reasons for their intervention need to be explicit and understood by all, players, officials and fans alike).

Once they had regained the ascendancy possession-wise, Wests came again, and in the 69th minute, Lustica worked an opening with Kearyn Baccus which resulted in Riera seeing another effort deflected to safety.

Back came Wellington, Kaludjerovic working an opening for Burns which resulted in Janjetovic turning his shot away to safety. But with fifteen minutes remaining, Wests’ goalkeeper was afforded no such chance by Ljujic, who levelled the scores in emphatic fashion.

Latching onto the loose ball after Durante had caught Bonevacia in possession in the centre circle, the newcomer took the ball before unleashing a thirty yard missile which flew as straight as an arrow into the right-hand corner of Janjetovic’s net – a screamer which delighted the local faithful no end!

From here on in, there was only one team which looked like winning the contest. Three minutes after equalising, Mullen played the ball forward for Krishna to pursue, prompting Janjetovic to dash out of goal and head clear … straight to Ljujic. With the goal gaping, he unleashed a thirty-five yard pot-shot which, much to the ‘keeper’s relief, bounced past the far upright.

Wellington were soon on the attack again, Burns and Kaludjerovic working a one-two on the left which resulted in the former’s pull-back being thwarted by Hamill’s timely intervention.

That sparked a Western Sydney counter-attack, with Carrusca and Baccus combining with Lustica. His low cross was set to be stroked into the net by Riera, only for Italiano, diving at the striker’s feet, to pluck the ball off his toe – a vital denial.

Spurred on by their fans – not for the first time this season, the Official Information Act will have to be cited before Wellington release their crowd figure to the masses – the home team came again, Krishna cutting in off the left before firing past the near post.

Cue drama, Hamill’s hauling back of Kaludjerovic in the centre circle earning the ire of referee Lucas. And as the defender had already been booked, he was tasked with testing the shower water earlier than all-comers – off he trudged with three minutes remaining.

The eleven men piled on the pressure in the time remaining. Doyle’s cross was set to be headed home by Burns until Thwaite’s vital headed clearance maintained parity on the scoreboard, while deep in stoppage time, after Ljujic had headed a Paracki cross at Janjetovic, Wellington should have clinched their second successive come-from-behind victory.

Ljujic sent Ridenton racing through the offside trap, and the midfielder found himself with Janjetovic to beat and Kaludjerovic up in support, screaming for the ball in order to apply the coup de grace.

Instead, Wellington’s leading scorer dipped into his dictionary of dirty words – he was filthy with Ridenton, who went for glory, only to be denied by Janjetovic’s save at the death, one which earned the ten men a share of the spoils from this 1-1 draw.

Match details

Crowd: 5,634

Wellington Phoenix FC: Italiano (gk); Fox (Galloway, 59), Durante, Rossi; Mullen, Ridenton, McGlinchey (Ljujic, 46 (booked, 72)), Paracki (booked, 90), Doyle (booked, 54); Krishna, Kaludjerovic

Coach: Darije Kalezić

Western Sydney Wanderes FC: Janjetovic (gk); Llorente, Hamill (booked, 23, 87 – sent off), Thwaite, Clisby; Bonevacia, Riera, Baccus; Lustica (Mourdoukoutas, 88), Santalab (Carrusca, 52), Bridge

Coach: Joseph Gombau

Points and ratings

Referee: Stephen Lucas 3/10

Match 6/10
Pitch 8/10

Player points
3. Thwaite
2. Durante
1. Bonevacia