Wellington upset Ten-Man Melbourne Victory

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 15
5:45pm, Wednesday 10 January, 2018 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Roy Krishna 64′, Mark Milligan og. 83′)
Melbourne Victory FC 1 (Kosta Barbarouses 40′)


Wellington Phoenix scored an upset come-from-behind 2-1 victory over Melbourne Victory at Westpac Stadium on 10 January, with the visitors playing all but ten minutes of this Hyundai A-League encounter with ten men after defender Rhys Williams was sent off for committing a professional foul.

Referee Matt Conger initially awarded a yellow card for Williams’ foul on Andrija Kaludjerovic, but the intervention of the Video Assistant Referee prompted him to review his decision.

After seeing it was a clear goalscoring opportunity, Conger cancelled the yellow card, and replaced it with a red one, reducing Melbourne to ten men for the duration against a Wellington side which had started strongly, with Matthew Ridenton and Marco Rossi – the latter from a Ridenton free-kick – having gone close prior to the incident which changed the balance of the contest.

Suffice to say, Wellington were well eager to press home their numerical advantage. On the quarter hour, Michael McGlinchey combined with Kaludjerovic to play in Ridenton, who rattled the post with a twenty-yarder. The rebound fell to Roy Krishna, who shot straight at Lawrence Thomas.

Melbourne’s custodian was kept busy by the home team’s attack, blocking well from Kaludjerovic four minutes later after Ridenton had played him through the offside trap. Seconds later, Dino Djulbic’s vital headed clearance prevented Kaludjerovic from capitalising on an inviting cross from Daniel Mullen.

Wellington coach Darije Kalezic then turned to his bench, withdrawing Rossi from the fray and unleashing Nathan Burns on Melbourne’s already over-stretched rearguard, which was now shored up by Mark Milligan.

He it was who headed clear a McGlinchey cross targeting Kaludjerovic on the half-hour, after which Melbourne showed the 5,105 present that despite being numerically challenged, they still posed an attacking threat, despite the anonymous Besart Berisha spending much of the game trying to find his way out of Dylan Fox’s back pocket!

That’s because the visitors had a former Wellington player in their ranks, and Costa Barbarouses was eager to make the most of a visit to his old stomping ground. James Troisi and Matias Sanchez combined to send him scooting clear of the offside trap in the 33rd minute, but he volleyed over.

Wellington responded via a Ridenton corner, which was played short to Burns. His cross lured Thomas out of goal, but he never got near the ball, which was sent bulleting inches over the crossbar by the flying figure of Fox – a thunderous header which deserved better fate.

Back came Melbourne, Leroy George’s delicious pass rewarding Barbarouses’ well-timed run. That made by Tom Doyle was even better, as it thwarted the danger posed by his fellow All White, who was not to be denied.

Five minutes before half-time, the ten men took the lead. Jason Geria fed Barbarouses on the right, from where he scythed inside before turning Doyle inside out then battering a shot between Lewis Italiano and his near post – 1-0 Melbourne.

Wellington’s fans were stunned. Despite being bottom of the league by some distance, surely they could overcome ten-strong opposition? Apparently not, according to the scoreboard, something which the home team set about addressing as soon as play resumed.

Straight from the kick-off, Doyle led the charge down the left before playing the ball inside to McGlinchey, who looked to pick out Krishna beyond the far post. His first touch deserted him, while Burns’ curling cross for Kaludjerovic arced just too far in front of the front-runner two minutes later.

The offside flag harshly denied Kaludjerovic an equaliser on the stroke of half-time, Krishna having been wrongly adjudged to have strayed by the official – no VAR involvement on this occasion!

Immediately after the second spell started, Kaludjerovic’s goal celebrations were again thwarted – correctly this time – by an offside call, after which debutant half-time substitute Matija Ljujic set off on a mazy run before lashing a twenty-yarder over the top.

Troisi then tried to help Wellington’s cause, his awful back-pass towards Thomas being swooped on by Krishna, who touched the ball round the ‘keeper, only to see his acute-angled shot blocked superbly by Leigh Broxham.

Burns twice went close in as many minutes soon afterwards, beating two before seeing his twenty-five yarder deflect narrowly past the post, then wriggling through three before stinging the gloves of Thomas from a similar distance.

Ljujic then picked out Ridenton with a sumptuous 54th minute pass, and he in turn fed Burns. Melbourne’s defence closed him down well on this occasion, but in the 55th minute, the visitors had to thank Thomas for maintaining their lead, the ‘keeper back-pedalling furiously then twisting to pull off a simply stunning save to keep Doyle’s swerving long-range missile at bay. Brilliant goalkeeping!

Still Wellington pressed, Ljujic the latest to sting Thomas’ gloves in the 57th minute. But when the ‘keeper next got his hands to a Wellington shot, the outcome was calamitous as far as Melbourne was concerned.

Ljujic nutmegged an opponent in slipping a pass to Ridenton, whose angled pass to Burns allowed him to shoot past Geria. Thomas should have saved the effort – after his exploits with Doyle’s attempt, he seemed unbeatable! – but this one he fumbled between his legs. Before he could recover, Krishna nipped in to ram home the equaliser from point-blank range, to the delight of the local faithful.

After that goal, there was only ever going to be one winner – momentum alone dictated that. Thomas kept out a snapshot from the goalscorer soon after, then looked on with relief as Ljujic’s flying eight yard header flashed inches past his right-hand post, the midfielder having launched himself to meet Doyle’s measured near post cross.

Sixteen minutes from time, Wellington suffered a scare as Berisha finally found his way out of Fox’s back pocket, only to appear to be brought down by the defender as Melbourne’s master marksman latched onto George’s pass, after a strong run from deep by the Dutchman.

Referee Conger’s initial assessment was no penalty, and a VAR review backed him up on this occasion. Berisha, of course, was ropable, while Melbourne, who threatened again through Barbarouses before the final whistle, battened down ahead of Tropical Storm Phoenix, as the home team threw everything they had into clinching a winner in the time remaining.

After beating three players, Burns’ twenty yard drive needed two bites by Thomas before he was assured of clearing his lines eleven minutes from time. Two minutes later, Wellington were denied a penalty as Kaludjerovic was taken out by Broxham.

Referee Conger waved play on, however, allowing Doyle’s cross to reach Krishna beyond the far post, from where he fired a shot across the face of goal, the ball ricocheting off Burns into the goalmouth, where Melbourne managed to scramble it to safety.

If only they had been able to repeat the dose in the 83rd minute. Ljujic picked out Burns on the left, from where he whipped in a cross to the near post. Kaludjerovic was the target, but Milligan was on his shoulder, and in his desperation to avert the danger succeeded only in steering the ball into his own net – 2-1 Wellington.

Incredibly, the ten men came right back at their hosts, and for the bulk of the next ten minutes strove hard to level the scores, the lack of an eleventh man too often their downfall in this quest.

Wellington weathered this storm, and a hefty clearance by Fox in stoppage time allowed Kaludjerovic to lead the charge in a counter-attack, only to be thwarted by Thomas, who also frustrated Ridenton before the final whistle, after Italiano cleared another Melbourne raid with a well-timed thump downfield.

The final whistle was greeted with both joy and relief by Wellington’s fans, who, as soon as Milligan’s clearance hit the net, indulged in their silly ‘shirts off in the final ten minutes’ routine when they’re winning, something they haven’t been able to do for a couple of months.

It’s a wonder league management haven’t moved to ban the practice – they’ve seemingly thwarted just about every other means of enjoyment open to fans as they seek to render the A-League politically correct and as sterile a product as possible. Then they wonder why attendances are down …

Match details

Crowd: 5,105

Wellington Phoenix FC: Italiano (gk); Fox (booked, 61), Durante, Rossi (Burns, 22 (booked, 59)); Mullen, McGlinchey (booked, 18) (Ljujic, 46), Paracki, Ridenton, Doyle; Krishna, Kaludjerovic

Coach: Darije Kalezić

Melbourne Victory FC: Thomas (gk); Geria, Djulbic, Williams (sent off, 10), Broxham (booked, 37); Milligan, Troisi, Sanchez (Antonis, 58); Barbarouses (booked, 81), Berisha (Nigro, 86), George

Coach: Kevin Muscat

Points and ratings

Referee: Matt Conger 4/10

Match 6/10
Pitch 8/10

Player points
3. Burns
2. Barbarouses
1. Ridenton