Wind, Rain And Wanderers Ruin Durante’s Day

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 14 – 2018/2019 – Round 3
Saturday 3 November, 2018 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 0
lost to
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 3 (Alex Baumjohn 11, Oriol Riera 55′ pen )


November 3, 2018, marked the 250th Hyundai A-League appearance of Andrew Durante for Wellington Phoenix, just the second occasion in the league’s history when a player has reached this appearance milestone playing for one club.

Sadly for the man nicknamed “Dura”, as in durability, the wind and the rain arrived in New Zealand’s capital with a vengeance to ruin this particular occasion, with just 5,339 fans turning up to mark the milestone.

Western Sydney Wanderers, also turned up, and they didn’t read the script either, prevailing 3-0 over their hosts with “Dura” guilty of handing – literally – the visitors one of their goals from the penalty spot, about which, more later.

It was an awful night for both playing and watching football, with the reputation of Wellington – the city – little enhanced by the elements’ contribution to proceedings. The team representing said location started promisingly, however, Mitch Nichols lashing a shot past the post within 65 seconds of the kick-off.

Wests responded in kind a minute later, Roly Bonevacia – once of this parish – lashing a rising drive narrowly over the bar as the visitors, with the wind at their backs swiftly took charge of proceedings.

Five minutes later, Oriel Riera roamed down the left before turning his marker and picking out Alex Baumjohann, who was somewhat startled to see the ball arrive in his stride. His mistimed shot struck Liberato Cacace, while the German fired the rebound wide.

When Baumjohann was next afforded the chance to chance his arm, he opened the scoring. Bonevacia sent Bruce Kamau careering down the left in pursuit of a terrific pass, and the striker lured Durante across before turning him and steering the ball into the stride of Baumjohann, who, from ten yards, rammed it first time into the roof of the net – 1-0 Western Sydney, and it has to be said it was coming.

Wellington responded swiftly to this setback, Louis Fenton forcing a save from Vedran Janjetovic after Nichols had broken up Wests’ attempts to bring the ball out of defence, the goal having given them the confidence to start doing so.

The conditions were making the playing of quality football something of a lottery, however, although they couldn’t be blamed for why an incident on the half-hour went unpunished by referee Jarred Gillett – no hometown ref, this lad, and least not when he’s on this side of the Tasman!

Having headed narrowly wide minutes earlier, Roy Krishna was showing the Wests’ defenders a clean pair of heels as he careered through the inside left channel when a none-too-gentle shove by Brendan Hamill on the edge of the area sent the Fijian flyer sprawling.

Because of the location, it was a free-kick at the very least, but Mr Gillett was quite content for play to continue, much to Krishna’s amazement. While Wellington protested, the visitors got on with business, Josh Risdon, Jordan O’Doherty and Bonevacia combining to present Raul Llorente with an opening which he lashed past the near post.

A minute later, Bonevacia stood up a defender before engineering the space to unleash a fierce shot which Filip Kurto turned round his near post. Wests continued to press, Baumjohann playing in Kamau on the right, where he worked his way to the by-line before pulling the ball back invitingly for any white-shirted player to exploit. Steven Taylor had other ideas, however, his block allowing a scrambled clearance.

A couple of Tom Doyle piledrivers followed, both of which foundered on Wests’ rock-solid rearguard, which was occasionally helped out by the retreating figure of Riera, such as in the 41st minute, when his vital block denied Krishna in the area as Wellington piled on the pressure.

From the resulting corner, Cacace sent a shot sizzling over the bar, while after Baumjohann had landed a free-kick on the roof of the net, Fenton and Max Burgess combined on the right before picking out Alex Rufer. He laid the ball back for Mandi Sosa to let fly, but his mistimed effort fell invitingly to Taylor, whose attempt to equalise on the stroke of half-time was smothered by Janjetovic.

The start of the second spell saw Western Sydney somehow survive a string of Wellington corners to the near post, where the wind did some dastardly things to the flight of the ball, causing deceptions aplenty.

But the visitors held out, and responded in the best manner possible, by doubling their lead. After Welllington’s defence failed to deal with Risdon’s clipped cross to the far post, Bonevacia moved in for the kill, only for Kurto to block his effort to seeming safety.

Not for long, however, as Kamau and Bonevacia were back in possession within thirty seconds. The latter laid the ball back into the stride of O’Doherty, whose twenty-yarder struck Durante on the arm he instinctively raised to protect his face …

Referee Gillett was in no doubt – penalty. And no amount of Wellington protests would prompt his mind to change. What’s more, he didn’t even need to utilise the VAR system to assist him – Shock! Horror! What is going on?

Riera swiftly put to rights the fact that he hadn’t yet scored so far this season, leaving Wests two goals to the good ten minutes into the second spell, and Wellington with work aplenty to do if they harboured hopes of earning at least a point on Durante’s milestone occasion.

Mr Gillett certainly had no intentions of aiding their cause, turning down another strong penalty claim around the hour mark as Doyle went down under Bonevacia’s challenge, to which Wests responded through Tarek Elrich, who heade a Baumjohann header over the bar.

After Taylor spurned a great chance to halve the deficit when heading directly at Janjetovic from close range upon receipt of a Doyle free-kick, the fullback blocked a Kamau drive to safety after the visitors launched a flowing raid eighteen minutes from time.

Taylor then headed Bonevacia’s curler to safety after Kamau had set up the Dutchman, to which Wellington responded via a raging thirty-yarder from Rufer – Janjetovic punched the ball firmly to safety.

Wests continued to press, coming desperately close to adding to their tally with each of their next raids. Breaking down the left, Riera fizzed in a cross which Bonevacia, sliding in, only just failed to make contact with – had he done so, he’d have scored, given he was just three yards out.

Then a concerted Western Sydney attack culminated in Risdon’s curling effort cannoning off the base of the far upright, to which Wellington responded by hitting the woodwork themselves, Nathan Burns the unlucky man as the crossbar prevented his header of Doyle’s cross from halving the deficit.

There was no way back for Wellington in stoppage time, however. While Sarpreet Singh stung the gloves of Janjetovic afterwards, Wests made the points safe with a superb counter-attacking goal.

Bonevacia started the raid, with Riera, Risdon and Kamau also involved before the last-mentioned sent O’Doherty dashing clear of the retreating defenders to be left with Kurto standing between the midfielder and the third goal, something which the goalkeeper was unable to prevent.

Wests’ win has seen them leapfrog Wellington on the table at this early stage of the campaign, and they’ll look to carry that momentum into next week’s home game with Brisbane Roar. The vanquished side, meanwhile, head to Melbourne City for a rare Friday night engagement – Wellington have just three such fixtures this season.

Match details

Crowd: 5,339

Wellington Phoenix FC:  Kurto (gk); Taylor, Durante (booked, 54) (Williams, 90), Doyle (booked, 87); Fenton, Mandi, Nichols (Singh, 62), Rufer (booked 20), Cacace; Burgess (Burns, 58), Krishna

Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Janjetovic; Risdon, Elrich, Hamill, Llorente; Baccus, Baumjohann (Mahazi, 90), O’Doherty; Kamau (Sotirio, 77), Riera, Bonevacia (booked, 73)

Points and ratings

Match 6/10
Pitch 7/10

Referee Jarred Gillett 3/10

3. Baumjohann (WSW)
2. Bonevacia (WSW)
1. Kamau (WSW)