Workmanlike Wellington Cruise Past Central Coast

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 14 – 2018/2019 – Round 8
5:35pm, Saturday 15 December, 2018 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Louis Fenton 9′, Sarpreet Singh 45′)
Central Coast Mariners FC 0


Wellington Phoenix rarely had reason to move into third gear at Westpac Stadium on December 15, as they eased to a 2-0 victory over a Central Coast Mariners side which is propping up the Hyundai A-League for a reason.

They’re toothless! Little wonder they’ve set a new A-League record for least points collected – two – from eight games! It took the visitors eighty minutes to fire their first shot on target in this match, by which time the 6,970 fans were already celebrating a Wellington win which looked assured from as early as the ninth minute.

Liberato Cacace was picked out by Mandi Sosa’s cross-field ball, and the wingback worked his way down the left before returning the ball to the Spaniard, who unleashed a twenty-five yarder. Adam Pearce dived to his left to parry it, but following in was Louis Fenton, who steered the ball home despite there being more than a hint of offside with regard to his positioning.

Prior to this, Jordan Murray had blazed over from close range for the visitors, the only other noteworthy attempt on goal by either side in the first quarter of a generally uninspiring contest, mainly because Wellington didn’t have to do a great deal to win because of how poor their opponents were.

After Sarpreet Singh had thrashed a thirty-five yard free-kick narrowly over the bar, Nathan Burns pounced on a Kalifa Cisse error to send Roy Krishna racing through the inside left channel on the half-hour, only for the Fijian – who bore the brunt of Central Coast’s physical challenges in this match – to drag his shot across the face of goal.

Instantly the visitors counter-attacked, only for the fit again Filip Kurto to time his challenge on the edge of the penalty area to perfection as Murray made a beeline for goal through the inside right channel.

In the 34th minute, Steven Taylor was denied what would have been a delightfully worked goal by the offside flag, after which Jack Clisby curled a thirty yard free-kick narrowly past Kurto’s left-hand post, as the visitors sought an equaliser before half-time.

That free-kick came about through a clash between Singh and Aiden O’Neill, one which referee Shaun Evans arguably called the wrong way. Sosa certainly wasn’t impressed, particularly with O’Neill’s part in proceedings immediately afterwards, and came charging in to make his point known to his opponent, only to go to ground clutching his face a split-second later, O’Neill having taken umbrage.

If there was any contact, it was minimal at best. Mandi, that sort of behaviour might be de rigeur in your homeland, but in this area of the world, such blatant displays of dishonesty and gamesmanship are frowned upon, and rightly. It’s not and never will be the Kiwi way.

Right on the stroke of half-time, Wellington doubled their advantage. Cacace again was the outlet on the left, and his driven cross found Krishna goal-side of Cisse at the near post. Instead of shooting, Wellington’s leading marksman instead unselfishly slipped the ball across to the totally unmarked figure of Singh, who had time to make a cup of tea before picking his spot – 2-0.

Try as they might, there was no coming back from that deficit for Central Coast. Before the hour mark, Matt Millar sent a shot flashing a yard over the top, while Clisby landed a thirty yard free-kick on the roof of the net. But they couldn’t hit the target.

Wellington, meanwhile, went close to increasing their advantage still further. Sosa and Singh combined to send Burns – after he had cleverly turned Jake McGing – down the left, from where he delivered a low cross to Krishna. His shot was blocked well by Pearce, who was relieved to see McGing make amends seconds later by thwarting an attempt from Burns.

The Wellington front-runner is enduring a nightmare run in front of goal – he hasn’t scored for the club in 23 games now – and was denied again in the 61st minute when Pearce punched the ball off his toe as Burns attempted an acrobatic close-range volley following an Alex Rufer corner which Tom Doyle turned into the goalmouth.

Half-time substitute then saw a shot blocked before Krishna showed that Sosa’s gamesmanship nonsense is already spreading throughout the side – the Fijian’s pathetic bid to earn a penalty was rightly given short shrift by referee Evans.

Central Coast finally produced a threatening move in the 67th minute, with Michael McGlinchey – once of this parish – linking with Connor Pain to create an opening for Matt Simon, only for Andrew Durante to avert the danger.

After Rufer’s angled fifteen yarder had been saved by Pearce, and Burns’ pass to Krishna was cut out by McGing, thus ending a lightning-fast counter-attack, Central Coast finally got their act together ten minutes from time, only for Kurto to thwart substitute Mario Shabow’s effort, then save a twenty-five yarder from Pain minutes later.

And that was that! A comfortable win for Wellington over a Central Coast side which, unless their injury-hit squad is strengthened in fairly short order, are going to be picking up the wooden spoon long before the 27th round of action kicks off.

Match details

Crowd: 6,970

Wellington Phoenix FC: Kurto (GK); Taylor, Kopzcynski (Doyle, 46), Durante; Fenton, Rufer, Sosa (booked, 57), Cacace; Singh (booked, 76) (Burgess, 90), Krishna (booked, 24), Burns (booked, 71) (Williams, 76)

Coach: Mark Rudan

Central Coast Mariners FC: Pearce (GK); McGing, Cisse, Rowles (booked, 45); Millar, McGlinchey (Shabow, 72), O’Neill (booked, 39) (Hoole, 63), Clisby (MacDonald, 72); Murray (booked, 90), Simon, Pain

Coach: Mike Mulvey

Points and ratings

Referee: Shaun Evans 5/10
Match 4/10
Pitch 9/10

Player points
3. Cacace (WP)
2. Singh (WP)
1. Taylor (WP)