Melbourne And Wellington Deservedly Share Spoils

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 14 – 2018/2019 – Round 10
7:50pm, Friday 28 December, 2018 – Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne Victory FC 1 (David Williams 62′)
drew with
Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Ola Toivonen 77′)


20,066 fans witnessed chances galore in the clash of the Hyundai A-League’s form teams at AAMI Park on December 28, but when the final whistle blew, both Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix had been able to convert just one opening apiece in this entertaining encounter.

A lively first half needed less than two minutes to see its first chance materialise, with Filip Kurto’s raking clearance allowed to bounce by Tommy Deng. Roy Krishna swooped on the sphere, took it round the stranded figure of Lawrence Thomas, then fired wildly over from an acute angle.

Melbourne’s response was led by Costa Barbarouses three minutes later. Taking advantage of an untimely slip by Andrew Durante, the former Wellington player stormed through the inside left channel, only for his attempt on goal to be blocked by the fast-recovering A-League veteran – it was a tremendous piece of recovery work by Durante, Wellington’s captain leading by example.

The home team was swift in following up on this opening. Leigh Broxham’s charging run was supplemented by that of overlapping fullback Corey Brown , whose first time cross had Ola Toivonen’s name written all over it until Filip Kurto careered out of his goal to punch the ball to safety.

In the ninth minute, Terry Antonis picked out Toivonen on the left, from where he cut inside and let fly, only to find Kurto right behind it on the bounce. Wellington responded to this with a decent spell of pressure, and should have opened the scoring in the fourteenth minute.

Sarpreet Singh set off on a swashbuckling run which took him past four opponents before he fed Krishna, whose driven low cross zoomed across the six yard box and through a throng of players, only needing a touch to divert it goalwards.

None was forthcoming, however, so Krishna pressed again in the twentieth minute, only to be thwarted by Carl Valeri’s timely tackle. David Williams then headed a measured Liberato Cacace cross over the bar as the visitors continued to hold the ascendancy, with Mandi Sosa going desperately close to breaking the deadlock in the 27th minute with a sizzling twenty-five yarder which rattled the stanchion.

Back came Melbourne, with Antonis releasing Barbarouses down the left ten minutes before half-time. The All White whipped a low cross into the goalmouth which James Troisi was a mere stride away from turning home.

Instead, Tom Doyle executed a desperate clearance, but the pressure from the home team was sustained four minutes later, with Toivonen, Barbarouses and Troisi combining to feed early substitute Josh Hope. His shot from the edge of the penalty area was directed straight at Kurto.

Concerted Melbourne pressure followed, culminating in an Antonis piledriver which Steven Taylor headed to safety in spectacular fashion as the home team looked to break the deadlock before half-time.

0-0 it remained, however, and that pressure continued early in the second spell, with Kurto having to punch a dangerous Troisi free-kick to safety before thwarting the same player with a fine parried save which the incoming figure of Toivonen arrived just too late to capitalise upon.

Wellington responded via another Singh raid, culminating in a pass which sent Krishna careering through the inside left channel. Having outpaced the defence, he unleashed a shot which flew past Thomas, only to graze the far post – close doesn’t even begin to do it justice!

When the visitors next attacked, they opened the scoring. Sosa got the better of Antonis in the 62nd minute, and Singh was the beneficiary, buccaneering his way downfield before slipping a pass into the stride of Williams, who cut inside Storm Roux before dispatching a gem of a curler into the far corner of the net – 1-0.

This was red rag to a bull territory for Melbourne, who, with a win in this match, would take the outright lead in the competition. Barbarouses instantly set about looking to restore parity, taking on four opponents down the left before shooting past Kurto and – narrowly – the far post.

Thirteen minutes from time, the home team got the leveller they were looking for. Durante’s headed clearance fell invitingly at the feet of Antonis, whose angled low cross was expertly steered home from point blank range by Toivonen – 1-1.

That set up a grandstand finish, with both teams striving for the winner in the time remaining. Thomas blocked a Cacace effort at his near post, to which Toivonen responded via a twenty-five yard free-kick, which cleared the wall but also cleared the crossbar.

Roux presented Barbarouses with a chance in the 81st minute, only for Kurto to block it at his near post. The Kiwi striker went closer still seven minutes later, volleying narrowly over after substitute Kenny Athiu had flicked on Brown’s angled cross.

Into stoppage time we went, with Barbarouses again desperately close to settling the contest, his fierce drive being parried by Kurto into the stride of Antonis, who was about the pull the trigger when Wellington substitute Michal Kopzcynski produced the most perfectly timed penalty area tackle to deny the midfielder his match-winning moment.

There was still time for Kurto to punch a teasing Antonis cross off the head of Toivonen before referee Daniel Elder called time on a memorable A-League contest which neither side deserved to lose, but couldn’t quite ascertain the win each sought to fully maintain their present momentum.

Match details

Crowd: 20,066

Melbourne Victory FC: Thomas (gk); Roux, Deng, Ansell (Hope, 12 (Akbari, 88)), Brown; Broxham (booked, 51), Troisi (Athiu, 64), Valeri, Antonis; Barbarouses, Toivonen

Wellington Phoenix FC: Kurto (gk); Taylor, Durante, Doyle (booked, 68); Fenton (booked, 16) (Lowry, 90), Rufer (booked, 48), Sosa (Kopzcynski, 79), Cacace; Krishna, Singh (booked, 19), Williams (Burns, 86)

Points and ratings:

Match 7/10
Pitch 7/10

Referee Daniel Elder 5/10

Player points:
3. Antonis
2. Kurto
1. Barbarouses