Late drama sees Wellington edge Perth

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 20
7:50pm, Saturday 17 February, 2018 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Sarpreet Singh 3’, Shane Lowry 90’+1)
Perth Glory FC 1 (Diego Castro 36′)


A paltry 4,806 fans – one of the lowest home gates in Wellington Phoenix’s Hyundai A-League history – saw the home team score a fortuitous 2-1 victory over Perth Glory at Westpac Stadium on 17 February, after the visitors had squandered a glorious chance to win the match themselves from the penalty spot.

Wellington got off to a flying start, with Sarpreet Singh marking his first A-League start with a twenty yard screamer which arrowed into the top far corner of the net just three minutes into the contest.

That immediately got Perth on the offensive, and Andrew Durante took one for the team in a spot every man dreads when Xavi Torres let fly from twenty-five yards three minutes later.

That attempt settled the visitors, who began to dominate possession soon after. But it was the bottom-placed side who generated what few goalscoring opportunities that came to pass inside the next thirty minutes.

Matthew Ridenton was central to all three openings, the first of them a twentieth minute free-kick which Liam Reddy punched away. Then, in the 33rd minute, he received a pass from Monty Patterson and instantly switched play to Singh, who picked out Andrija Kaludjerovic.

His shot was blocked for a corner by Shane Lowry. Ridenton’s delivery created chaos in the Perth penalty area, the ball ricocheting off a defender straight to Reddy, who grabbed the ball greedily to prevent his former club from doubling their lead.

Instead, it was cancelled out in the 36th minute by a superb free-kick from inside the ‘D’ by Diego Castro, who picked himself up, dusted himself down and picked out the bottom corner after having been felled by Dylan Fox, whose challenge brought the visitors’ most enterprising raid thus far to a premature conclusion.

Back came Wellington, Thomas Doyle – he had a poor game, particularly distribution-wise – picking out Nathan Burns with a pass which he used his hand to control before laying the ball off to Kaludjerovic.

Inexperienced referee Alex King – this was just his fifth A-League middle – missed the offence, so it was just as well that Matija Ljujic’s curling low-struck twenty-yarder was turned round the post by Reddy, as there would have been many an irate Perth player in the official’s face had the ball found the back of he net.

Doyle’s best contribution to the game came on the stroke of half-time, a delicious curling cross to the near post which was tailor-made for Kaludjerovic to head home, something he would have done but for Lowry’s intervention – the defender had a terrific game for the visitors.

Perth bossed proceedings for the vast majority of the second spell, and Wellington were hanging on at times as a result. They had strong penalty claims turned away by referee King five minutes into the half as Castro went to ground under Fox’s challenge, while a ten-yard header from Torres flashed narrowly past the far post after Neil Kilkenny had picked him out with a corner.

Debutant Wellington goalkeeper Tando Velaphi then saved bravely at the feet of Joel Chianese in the 63rd minute, after Castro had sent the substitute scooting through the inside-right channel, a move which would be repeated eight minutes later. This time round, Chianese’s low angled drive was turned round the far post by the custodian.

Wellington hadn’t been without their own moments on attack to this point, half-time substitute Roy Krishna an integral component in the first of them, as he worked a one-two with Ljujic in the 53rd minute before thrashing a drive narrowly over the near post from inside the area.

Seventeen minutes later, Scott Galloway pounced on a pass intended for Castro and instantly fed the Fijian, whose angled early cross was met by the head of Lowry. He could only divert it straight to Kaludjerovic, however, but the striker was unable to direct his reflex volley on target – only just, mind!

After Reddy had watched a Burns effort sail over the bar, then comfortably dealt with a Galloway attempt, he looked on as his punched clearance of a cross landed straight at the feet of Krishna, whose shot cannoned to safety off Mitch Nichols.

This came seconds after Joseph Mills’ cross, intended for Kilkenny, was headed clear in fine style by retreating Wellington substitute Michael McGlinchey, whose 200th A-League appearance this was.

When Perth next attacked, in the 81st minute, Castro was leading the charge, and he wrong-footed Durante en route into the penalty area, where he laid the ball off to Nichols.

Seconds after he did, the momentum of the covering figure of Galloway took him into the playmaker, and both went to ground. Referee King didn’t hesitate – penalty, much to the ire of the Wellington players, who stated the obvious, being “He was committed to the challenge. How could he get out of the way?”

But a penalty it was, and up stepped Castro to deliver the coup de grace, except he didn’t! Instead, his fanciful “Panenka” penalty floated into the grateful gloves of Velaphi, who barely had to move to produce the save.

It was to prove a crucial miss for the Western Australians, as in the first minute of stoppage time, a Wellington counter-attack produced the match-winning goal. Ridenton switched play to Krishna on the left, and he instantly linked with fellow substitute McGlinchey.

With two defenders on his back, the midfielder tried a cheeky back-heeled pass between them. It looked to be in vain until a burst of acceleration from Krishna saw him latch onto the ball and race deep into the penalty area before firing the ball into the goalmouth.

Retreating at pace at the near post was Lowry, who had the misfortune to see the ball cannon off his thigh and fly between the near post and the diving figure of Reddy, who was plunging forward to grab the cross and snuff out the danger.

Instead, he was left to fish the ball out of his net as Wellington celebrated what was surely the match-winner, a fact confirmed soon afterwards, but not before a seventy yard counter-attacking run from Krishna culminated in Reddy saving at his feet on the edge of his goal area.

The victors remain at the bottom of the table despite their win, although they only trail their next opponents, Central Coast Mariners, on goal difference. Both teams are two points behind Perth, who, had they been more incisive when in possession, may well have headed home with the spoils of war – Wellington scarcely deserved to.

Match details

Crowd: 4,806

Wellington Phoenix FC: Velaphi (gk); Galloway, Durante (booked, 39), Fox, Doyle; Singh (McGlinchey, 68), Ridenton (booked, 29), Ljujic; Patterson (Krishna, 46), Kaludjerovic, Burns (Rufer, 90)

Coach: Darije Kalezić

Perth Glory FC: Reddy (gk); Neville, Grant (booked, 89), Lowry, Mills; Kilkenny, Castro, Torres; Italiano (Chianese, 55), Keogh, Nichols

Coach: Kenny Lowe

Points and ratings

Referee: Alex King 4/10

Match 4/10
Pitch 8/10

Player points
3. Ridenton
2. Lowry
1. Castro