Wanderers maintain their dominance over Wellington

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 22
7:50pm, Saturday 10 March, 2018 – Sydney Showground, Homebush Bay

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 4 (Brendon Santalab 40′, Brendan Hamill 68′, 78′, Christopher Ikonomidis 90′)
Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Sarpreet Singh 42′)


Western Sydney Wanderers heaped further woe on Wellington Phoenix’s worsening season at Spotless Stadium on March 10, trouncing the travelling team 4-1 in front of 7,041 fans to move into the top five in the Hyundai A-League, and recording their seventh win in the last ten meetings between the clubs in the process.

The home team started like a house on fire, with Marcelo Carrusca – the best player on the park until injury forced him off in the 37th minute – leading Andrew Durante a merry dance near the touchline before spotting Mark Bridge’s run from deep and picking him out with an inch-perfect lobbed pass.

Bridge took the ball into the area before pulling it back for Chris Ikonomidis, who shanked the chance to open the scoring just 85 seconds into the match. Within a minute, Brendon Santalab fired an airshot after Ikonomidis and Stephen Lustica had teamed up on the right.

Wellington replied in kind through Sarpreet Singh in the fourth minute – he, too, executed the perfect airshot when attempting to drive home the counter-attacking Tom Doyle’s cross from the left.

The youngster endeavoured to make amends seconds later, beating one on the right before his cross picked out Goran Paracki at the near post, past which he directed his diving header.

Back came Wests, Santalab getting the better of Durante before Dylan Fox stopped him in his tracks with a thunderous seventh minute tackle, forcing a corner from which Bridge was denied the opening goal by the offside flag.

Paracki and Singh chanced their arm with twenty yard efforts during the next ten minutes, after which a 27th minute strike by Bridge roused the game from its slumbers, forcing the first save of the match by either goalkeeper – Tando Velaphi drew the short straw.

Five minutes later, Wests hit the post via Ikonomidis’ twenty yard free-kick. Wellington were unable to clear the rebound effectively, but Brendan Hamill did it for them, heading well wide of the target having been set up by central defensive partner Michael Thwaite.

Carrusca’s departure didn’t deter Wests greatly, for after Velaphi smothered a Santalab effort, the home team opened the scoring five minutes before half-time. Hamill released Bridge with a super ball from deep.

The striker scampered away down the left into the penalty area, where he drew two defenders and Velaphi before setting up Santalab for his now traditional goal against Wellington, this his tenth in sixteen games against them.

The home team’s celebrations were short-lived, for just ninety seconds later, parity had been restored. Matthew Ridenton’s free-kick wasn’t cleared, allowing Nathan Burns to unleash a shot.

It ricocheted into the path of Roy Krishna, whose eight yard drive was well blocked by Vedran Janjetovic, who could do nothing to prevent Singh from ramming the rebound into the roof of the net – 1-1.

Both teams looked to take the lead just before half-time, with Ikonomidis prevented from doing so by Ridenton’s superbly timed tackle on the edge of the penalty area. Krishna, meanwhile, raced away down the left before cutting inside and unleashing a shot which grazed the far post, Janjetovic beaten all ends up by a sizzler.

The second spell began quietly, Carrusca’s replacement, Alvaro Cejudo, heading wide from Bridge’s measured angled cross in the 49th minute, to which Wellington responded via a Ridenton free-kick which Krishna headed over the bar four minutes later.

The Fijian then latched onto a loose ball on half-way and put the after-burners on, racing into the area before looking to beat Janjetovic at his near post. The ‘keeper’s block was solid, and came at the expense of a Ridenton corner, which Fox headed past the far post in the 56th minute.

Slowly but surely, Western Sydney began to get on top in what, for the best part of an hour, had been an arm wrestle. Doyle’s vital headed clearance prevented Ikonomidis from capitalising on the overlapping Raul Llorente’s cross, before Cejudo latched onto a ricochet off Santalab to charge into the penalty area, where he was crowded out.

Josh Risdon was following up, but the massed ranks of Wellington’s defenders closed to block his shot, only for the fullback to be fouled seconds later. Roly Bonevacia’s quickly taken free-kick allowed Lustica to surge down the flank before he slipped the ball inside to the charging figure of Ikonomidis.

Velaphi saved his 64th minute shot well, but was powerless to prevent Hamill heading the home team in front four minutes later, the defender rising to meet Cejudo’s near post corner and guide his header across the ‘keeper and in by the far post.

It was a blow from which Wellington never recovered – instantly, you could sense it was a case of ‘by how many’, and Wests eagerly sought to improve their goal difference.

With fourteen minutes remaining, Bonevacia played the ball wide to Bridge, whose pass inside sent Risdon racing goalwards. The fullback lacked the courage of his convictions, however, passing square to no one when the shot was on.

Two minutes later, Wests made the game safe with a third goal. Cejudo’s near post corner was flicked on this time, Bridge doing the honours. Hamill was unmarked on the far post for a tap-in – 3-1.

Velaphi was more than a little frustrated with the way his defence was capitulating in front of him by this stage, and he twice got them out of the cactus in the next ten minutes, on both occasions saving from Risdon, spectacularly so first time around.

The home team weren’t finished, however, and in the ninetieth minute added the coup de grace. Bonevacia, Ikonomidis and Risdon combined, with the fullback knocking the ball forward before backing himself to outrun the Wellington rearguard and regather possession.

Sure enough, he did just that, and with Velaphi fast approaching, instantly slipped the ball inside to Ikonomidis, who evaded a final Wellington challenge before rolling the sphere into an empty net.

4-1 was very nearly 5-1 soon after, with Risdon, who had by now developed quite an appetite for these productive forward forays from fullback, leading the charge once more. Cejudo was the beneficiary, the substitute’s shot being turned round the post by Velaphi, who vented his spleen once more at team-mates who had long since thrown in the towel.

4-1 it remained to Wests, however, their triumph coming against a team who parted ways with coach Darije Kalezic during the week, Chris Greenacre – not for the first time in his career – stepping into the breach to take Wellington through the rest of the season.

Match details

Crowd: 7,041

Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Janjetovic (gk); Risdon, Hamill (booked 52), Thwaite, Llorente; Lustica (Baccus, 90), Bonevacia, Carrusca (Cejudo, 37); Ikonomidis, Santalab (Sotirio, 76), Bridge (booked, 41)

Wellington Phoenix FC: Velaphi (gk); Durante (booked, 63), Fox, Cacace (booked, 31) (Rogerson, 83); Galloway (booked, 45), Ridenton, Singh (Ljujic, 69), Paracki (Rufer, 83), Doyle; Burns, Krishna

Points and ratings

Match 6/10
Pitch 6/10

Referee: Adam Kersey 6/10

Players points:
3. Bridge
2. Risdon
1. Hamill