Defences Dominate Scoreless Showdown

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 14 – 2018/2019 – Round 2
4pm, Sunday 28 October, 2018 – Lang Park, Milton

Brisbane Roar FC 0
drew with
Wellington Phoenix FC

Brisbane Roar and Wellington Phoenix battled out a scoreless draw in front of 15,129 fans at Suncorp Stadium on 28 October to ensure that no team would boast a perfect record after two rounds of Hyundai A-League action in the 2018-19 season.

Wellington made all the early running in this match, and should have opened the scoring in the ninth minute. Sarpreet Singh presented the ball to Tom Doyle on the right, from where he delivered a cross which Jamie Young could only parry, straight into the stride of Steven Taylor.

With the goal at his mercy just four yards away, the former England age-grade international somehow contrived to hit the outside of the post – and that, ladies and gentlemen, ends all debate re this campaign’s “Miss Of The Season” award! Your winner, for the 2018-19 season, Steeeevennnnn Taaaaaayloooorrrrr!! (With apologies to boxing ring announcer extraordinaire, Michael Buffer).

Singh had penalty claims waved away soon after as his free-kick struck the moving arm of a player in the defensive wall, while Young stumbled on a back-pass on the quarter hour, allowing David Williams to close in swiftly. Unfortunately for the striker, the ‘keeper recovered to clear his lines effectively.

Wellington continued to press, Singh dragging a shot wide of the near post after turning an opponent upon receipt of Louis Fenton’s angled ball forward, an action which prompted Brisbane to raise their game – very swiftly they were in the ascendancy.

Alex Lopez picked out Tobias Mikkelsen on the left in the 22nd minute, where he held the ball up before slipping it into the stride of the charging figure of Stefan Mauk, who was making a well-timed run from midfield.

Wellington’s defensive strategy forced Mauk to turn away from goal, but he swiftly set up Eric Bautheac for a shot which was blocked and cleared., but only as far as the eye-catching Connor O’Toole, who delivered a delicious cross into the penalty area which Mauk was just a stride away from making meaningful contact with.

Brisbane continued to probe – a near post cross from Bautheac for Adam Taggart prompted panic aplenty in the 32nd minute – with O’Toole’s surging run and inviting cross seven minutes before half-time inviting Taggart to launch into a full-length diving header. He only just failed to make contact with the ball.

A by now rare Wellington raid five minutes before half-time should have seen them open the scoring. Latching onto the ball near half-way, Roy Krishna set sail for goal, rampaging down the right to the by-line before whipping in a vicious low cross. Singh, racing in to meet it, stumbled at precisely the wrong moment – 0-0 it remained.

Back came Brisbane, Bautheac’s inviting cross to the far post admired by Mauk – he was the one for whom it was meant – who attempted to make amends on the stroke of half-time when sending a twenty-five yarder sizzling over the bar.

The visitors were first to threaten in the second spell. Krishna again set sail from half-way, and worked a one-two with Singh before shooting straight at Young at his near post five minutes into the half, a feat the Fijian would repeat sixteen minutes later, Alex Rufer and Fenton having combined to present him with the opportunity.

Brisbane retorted to the first of these attempts via the creativity of Mikkelsen and Mauk, who set up Bautheac for a shot. Doyle blocked this, sparking a counter-attack which culminated in Avram Papadopoulos intercepting a Williams delivery intended for Krishna.

Doyle headed clear from Taggart soon after, as he looked to head home a Mikkelsen cross, while the Dane should have done better than to shoot at Filip Kurto on the hour mark, Mauk having caught Rufer in possession in the centre circle and raced forward before slipping the ball into his team-mate’s stride.

Half-way through the half, Mauk latched onto a Lopez pass and instantly steered it into the stride of Bautheac. Thomas Kristensen’s clever decoy run drew two defenders away from the Frenchman, who sent his shot sizzling a yard past the far post.

The chances continued to come inside the final quarter-hour. Lopez’s ball into the goalmouth wasn’t cleared, inviting Jack Hingert to head it back into the danger zone. Taggart flicked it onto the far post, where substitute Henrique just failed to get on the end of it.

How referee Alex King failed to award Wellington a penalty for Papadopoulos’ rugby tackle on Taylor twelve minutes from time remains a mystery. Perhaps it was because the defender had already been booked, and subsequently warned again for repeat infringements, so this would have meant a certain dismissal had he pointed to the spot.

It was the only blemish on an otherwise outstanding display of refereeing by King, the best this writer has seen by an official in this competition for quite some time. He even managed to refrain from using the curse that is VAR to assist him in his decision-making – an achievement in itself!

Bautheac continued to cause Wellington’s defence problems, but the outstanding Doyle was his nemesis, cheekily lofting a pass into Kurto’s gloves in the 84th minute to frustrate the French forward.

Singh was only a yard away with a twenty-five yarder five minutes from time, but his ponderous play three minutes later, after Andrew Durante had weaved past three and substitute Max Burgess a further two opponents, meant Singh’s eventual cross was far too late for substitute Mitch Nichols to exploit.

That attack heralded stoppage time, and it was Lopez who went closest to breaking the deadlock in the remaining minutes, sweeping past three opponents before seeing his twenty yarder expertly parried to safety by Kurto, the only real save he’d been forced to produce in the entire contest, one from which both teams emerged with a point and a clean sheet to show for their efforts.

Match details

Crowd:  15,129

Brisbane Roar FC: Young; Hingert (booked, 71), Papadopoulos (booked, 11), Pepper (booked, 78), O’Toole; Kristensen, Mauk, Lopez; Bautheac (booked, 74) (D’Agostino, 89), Taggart, Mikkelsen (Henrique, 64)

Coach: John Aloisi

Wellington Phoenix FC: Kurto; Fenton (booked, 75), Taylor, Durante, Doyle; Rufer (Nichols, 82), Singh, Mandi (booked, 72); Williams (Burgess, 67), Krishna (Burns, 90), Cacace

Coach: Mark Rudan

Points and ratings

Pitch 4/10
Match 7/10

Referee Alex King 8/10

3. Doyle (WP)
2. O’Toole (BR)
1. Papadopoulos (BR)