Wellington Mark Rudan’s reign’s start with win

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 14 – 2018/2019 – Round 1
5pm, Saturday 21 October, 2018 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Daniel Georgievski 32′, Roy Krishna 89′)
Newcastle United Jets FC 1 (Dimitri Petratos 90’+5)

Wellington Phoenix scored a surprise 2-1 victory over last season’s beaten Hyundai A-League Grand Finalists, Newcastle Jets, at Westpac Stadium on 21 October, to mark the start of the 2018-19 competition and the reign of new coach Mark Rudan.

Urged on by a 9,174-strong crowd, Wellington found themselves under pressure from a Newcastle combination which had early penalty claims denied as Jason Hoffman went down under Andrew Durante’s challenge in the fourth minute.

Two minutes later, Hoffman’s delightfully weighted pass into the stride of Jair presented the newcomer with a great opportunity to make his mark in style, but after charging into the penalty area he sent his shot careering past the near post.

Unperturbed, the visitors pressed on, but not before Roy Krishna had fired Wellington’s first chance of the season into the side-netting after Sarpreet Singh’s enterprising raid on the left.

New Wellington shot-stopper Filip Kurto was soon earning his keep, however, tipping over a Ronald Vargas volley in the sixteenth minute before gobbling up a twenty-yarder from the same player seven minutes later.

Vargas was causing Wellington all sorts of problems, his next intervention materialising on the half-hour. After pouncing on a loose ball, he evaded a couple of challenges before playing Hoffman through the inside-right channel.

The striker charged deep into the penalty area before executing a seemingly absurd-angled pull-back, but one which was perfectly delivered into the stride of Matthew Ridenton as he arrived on the edge of the penalty area.

Having transferred to Newcastle from Wellington, the visitor’s newcomer was keen to put one over his old team-mates, and unleashed a drive which Louis Fenton blocked on the line. The rebound went back to Ridenton, who fired his second attempt wide of the mark.

Newcastle were made to pay for that miss just two minutes later. Singh’s free-kick picked out Steven Taylor on the right. The former Newcastle – the English one – defender headed the ball across goal towards the far post, enticing Glen Moss out of his goal.

What looked certain to be a regulation catch for the former Wellington custodian never materialised, however, as Daniel Georgievski rose to head clear, but mis-timed his leap and redirected the ball into his own net to open the scoring.

Wellington’s fans were understandably delighted at this development, and their team showed their delight by visibly growing in confidence as a result. Newcastle were back in the ascendancy by the half-time whistle, however, Vargas thrashing a thunderous drive narrowly past the post seconds before referee Daniel Elder blew his whistle.

The home team enjoyed the better of the early exchanges in the second spell, with Krishna just failing to do justice to a Fenton cross in the 57th minute. Four minutes later, however, Wellington had the ball in the net for a second time, only for the curse of the competition, the Video Assistant Referee, to make its unwelcome presence known for the first time this season.

Krishna, in space, fed David Williams, whose shot was blocked by Nikolai Topor-Stanley. The ball rebounded off the defender onto the incoming figure of Singh, off whom it ricocheted into the net.

But the VAR deemed that Singh had used his arm to direct the ball goalwards, prompting referee Elder to not only disallow the goal, but book the scorer for handling the ball. Madness, I tell you, madness!

Back came Newcastle, with Dimitri Petratos delivering a free-kick into the danger zone half-way through the half. Kurto pawed it away, but only as far as Hoffman, whose close-range header was superbly tipped onto the bar by the recovering goalkeeper – a fine save.

After Wellington had had strong penalty claims denied them for a foul by Nigel Boogaard on Taylor, Williams’ fierce drive was kept out by Moss’ parried save as the home team looked to clinch victory.

Broadcasts of a Wellington Phoenix match should come with a “do not adjust your sets” warning in the 79th minute of a game which they’re winning, because with ten minutes to go their fans treat an unsuspecting public to one of the most frightening sights in football, peeling off their shirts to reveal torsos of all shapes and sizes, very few of which can be described as filmworthy.

Petratos attempted to do something about this mere seconds before the dreaded eighty minute mark, via a long-range free-kick. Unfortunately for Newcastle, and those watching whose viewing tastes are, shall we say, more refined, his effort grazed the crossbar.

With five minutes remaining, Wellington substitutes Mitch Nichols and Max Burgess combined to great effect, only for the latter to squander the opening through being far too ponderous in his execution of the chance.

The home team kept on coming, however, and three minutes later were beneficiaries of another intervention by the much-maligned VAR phenomenon. This time, home team appeals followed a cleared corner, which Nichols had been prevented from contesting by the unwelcome intervention of Newcastle substitute Kaine Sheppard.

Referee Elder didn’t see the incident, but the all-seeing eye of the VAR prompted him to have a look-see at the sideline monitor. Cue a change of decision, and the awarding of a penalty, much to the ire of the visitors, whose fury was increased soon after as Krishna steered home the rebound after Moss had saved his spot-kick.

They channeled that anger into reducing the deficit, and did so in style in stoppage time. Ridenton led the counter-attack before feeding substitute Mitch Austin. His first-time pass rolled into the stride of Petratos, who unleashed an unstoppable first-time drive across Kurto and into the far corner of the net to give Newcastle hope of pulling off a comeback.

Time was their enemy, however, and Wellington saw out the match to earn their first win at Westpac Stadium for eight months, and just their eighth at the venue since March 2016 … little wonder their fans were so keen to “do the Phoenix” ten minutes from time!

Match details

Crowd: 9,174

Wellington Phoenix FC: Kurto (gk); Taylor (booked, 90), Durante, Doyle; Fenton (booked, 54), Mandi (Nichols, 81), Rufer, Cacace; Williams (Burns, 90), Singh (booked, 63) (Burgess, 81), Krishna (booked, 79)

Newcastle United Jets FC: Moss (gk); Georgievski, Boogaard, Topor-Stanley, Jackson (Vujica, 64); Vargas, Ugarkovic (booked, 24), Ridenton; Petratos, Hoffman (Austin, 75), Jair (Sheppard, 56 (booked, 89))

Points and ratings

Referee: Daniel Elder 4/10

Match 6/10
Pitch 9/10

Player points:
3. Petratos (NUJ)
2. Singh (WP)
1. Taylor (WP)