Second-placed Newcastle stunned by Wellington

by Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 17
5:35pm, Saturday 20 January, 2018 – Hunter Stadium

Newcastle United Jets FC 2 (Andrew Nabbout 48′, Dimitri Petratos 86′)
lost to
Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (Matija Ljujic 28′, Daniel Mullen 36′, Roy Krishna 58′)


Wellington Phoenix stunned second-placed Newcastle Jets 3-2 in front of 10,877 fans at McDonald Jones Stadium on 20 January to close right up on the teams above them in the Hyundai A-League.

The bottom-placed side were under the cosh early doors, and were kept in the match by goalkeeper Lewis Italiano, who had his best game for the club in this contest. He saved well in the third minute, as Jason Hoffman looked to get on the end of Dimitri Petratos’ angled cross, and looked on two minutes later as Nathan Burns’ teasing cross-shot caught Jack Duncan in two minds.

Newcastle scrambled the danger to safety on that occasion, and spent the bulk of the next twenty minutes pounding away at a flimsy-looking Wellington rearguard. And how they failed to take the lead in the fourteenth minute only Daniel Georgievski can explain.

Steven Ugarkovic picked out the overlapping fullback with a defence-splitting pass which left Georgievski bearing down on goal. Instead of shooting, he looked to pick out Hoffman, only for the covering figure of Marco Rossi to intervene.

But the defender only succeeded in directing the ball straight back to Georgievski, who then did what he should have done in the first place – gone for goal himself. But Italiano made himself big and blocked the effort to safety.

Following a series of penetrating Petratos crosses and set-piece deliveries which had Wellington’s defenders treading on eggshells, Georgievski surged out of his own half and deep into the visitors’ patch of the pitch before slipping Hoffman through, leaving him one-on-one with Italiano.

The ‘keeper made a super one-handed save at the feet of the striker, and was to the fore again five minutes later as Hoffman released Andrew Nabbout down the right, from where he sent a low cross spearing across the bows of the incoming figure of Petratos, but straight into the grateful gloves of the goalkeeper.

Italiano’s exploits impacted on Newcastle in another way in the 28th minute, as Wellington, completely against the run of play, opened the scoring. There appeared to be nothing on when Matija Ljujic secured possession on the right and cut inside before curling the ball into the box.

Unfortunately for the home team’s defence, everyone left the task of dealing with it to the next man, until it was Duncan’s duty to fish this twenty-five yard strike out of the far corner of his net.

1-0 became 2-0 eight minutes later, as a shell-shocked home team again suffered a catastrophic defensive meltdown at precisely the wrong moment. Matthew Ridenton curled in a corner earned via the exploits of Nathan Burns and Michael McGlinchey, and darting in to meet it at the near post, completely unmarked, was Daniel Mullen, who afforded Duncan no chance whatsoever from point-blank range.

Former Wellington coach and now Newcastle’s boss, Ernie Merrick, looked on as impassively as ever, but you could see the steam escaping from his ears as his watched his defence floundering at the hands of the cellar-dwellers.

Wellington should have increased their lead still further five minutes before half-time. Mullen fed Roy Krishna on the right, where he skipped past Nikolai Topor-Stanley and set sail for goal, charging into the penalty area before setting up Andrija Kaludjerovic, whose first-time shot was beaten away by Duncan, a late replacement for Glen Moss, who was injured during the warm-up session.

Right on half-time, Patricio Rodriguez stung the gloves of Italiano with a twenty-five yarder. Three minutes after play resumed, his delicious back-heeled pass allowed a one-two with Georgievski to work to perfection, and enabled the fullback to set up the completely unmarked figure of Nabbout to drag Newcastle back into the contest – 2-1.

Half-time substitute Scott Galloway led Wellington’s response, surging down the right before exchanging passes with Krishna and whipping in a cross to the near post which McGlinchey, arriving at pace and with a defender on his shoulder, couldn’t direct on target.

Duncan restarted play with a goal kick, and the ball was soon being competed over by Hoffman and Rossi, who left the Newcastle man on the deck with an act of ungentle-manly conduct seldom seen in football. Let’s just say the ball on the pitch wasn’t the only one Rossi got to grips with at this particular moment in time …

In the 54th minute, Krishna played the ball wide to Kaludjerovic, whose cross found the head of Ljujic. While he directed his header straight at Duncan, the covering figure of Nigel Boogaard was attempting to head the danger to safety, and came off second best, with off-field treatment required before he could return to the fray with a rather novel bandaging arrangement.

When he did return to the fray, Wellington had exploited his absence on the scoreboard by restoring their two-goal advantage. Referee Jarred Gillett inexplicably waved play on when Durante brought down Rodriguez right in front of the official, and the visitors played to the whistle, quickly releasing Burns down the left, from where he picked out Krishna, who picked out the top corner from twelve yards – 3-1.

Three minutes later, the Fijian saw his twenty yarder hit the crossbar as Wellington looked to capitalise on Newcastle’s collective malaise. But the home team gradually recaptured their initial attacking impetus, rendering the final ten minutes rather interesting by doing so.

Eight minutes from time, Italiano blocked Nabbout’s acute-angled drive at the near post, after capably dealing with an increasing number of crosses. Two minutes later, Rossi brought down substitute Angus Thurgate in the area, prompting referee Gillett to point to the penalty spot.

Petratos made no mistake from twelve yards – Italiano got a hand to his shot, but couldn’t keep it out – and could have had another opportunity to restore parity in stoppage time, as Thurgate went down again, this time in tandem with Durante.

Referee Gillett ruled this to be an accidental collision, much to the frustration of Newcastle, who went close to equalising between the two penalty incidents when substitutes Joey Champness and Thurgate combined with Ivan Vujica, whose near post cross, intended for Petratos, was prevented from reaching him by Italiano, without question Wellington’s star turn as they scored their second win in three.

Match details

Crowd: 10,877

Newcastle United Jets FC: Duncan (gk); Georgievski, Boogaard, Topor-Stanley, Vujica; Brown (Kantarovski, 65), Petratos, Ugarkovic; Hoffman (Champness, 65), Nabbout, Rodriguez (Thurgate, 72)

Coach: Ernie Merrick

Wellington Phoenix FC: Italiano (booked, 85) (gk); Mullen (Galloway, 46 (booked, 63)), Durante (booked, 16), Rossi (booked, 84); McGlinchey, Ljujic (Rufer, 67), Ridenton; Krishna, Kaludjerovic (Parkhouse, 87), Burns

Coach: Darije Kalezic

Points and ratings

Referee: Jarred Gillett 5/10

Match 6/10
Pitch 8/10

Players points

3. Italiano
2. Georgievski
1. Krishna