Tale of Two Penalties as Sydney sinks Wellington

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 14 – 2018/2019 – Round 15
7:35pm, Wednesday 23 January, 2019 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 0
lost to
Sydney FC 1 (de Jong 25′)


Sydney FC brought an end to Wellington Phoenix’s nine-match unbeaten streak in the Hyundai A-League on January 23, downing the home team 1-0 in front of 8,961 fans at a windblown Westpac Stadium, where referee Daniel Elder performed poorly.

The visitors began brightly, with Milos Ninkovic securing possession on the left and luring defenders towards him before threading a pass through the inside left channel for Anthony Caceres to latch onto. Filip Kurto anticipated his run superbly, however, and bravely saved at his feet in the third minute.

Five minutes later, Sydney should have been awarded a penalty after Louis Fenton’s ball-handling offence following a Sydney free-kick. Referee Elder somehow failed to see the incident, and when advised by the Video Assistant Referee that he had a penalty to award, looked at the video to confirm the fact and decreed that it had been a case of ball to hand – no penalty!

Sydney were understandably unhappy, and that’s being polite! But while this was by far the worst of Mr Elder’s misinterpretations of reality in this match, it was by no means his last. He repeatedly proved he was out of his depth for a fixture of this standing, make no mistake.

Wellington looked to make the most of their good fortune, and went close to opening the scoring three minutes later. Kurto launched the ball downfield, Roy Krishna flicked it on and Cillian Sheridan, making his start for the home team, lashed a volley narrowly past the post.

That proved to be a rare attack for Wellington, as Sydney soon got back into their stride and started stringing together some enterprising passing moves, sadly without an end product on the majority of occasions.

Ninkovic was central to much which was good about their play, and in the 22nd minute sent Adam Le Fondre racing into the penalty area in pursuit of a pass from half-way. The league’s co-leader in the Golden Boot race unleashed a first time shot on the run which Kurto smothered at his near post.

Three minutes later, Sydney took the lead, but it came at a price. Brandon O’Neill curled a free-kick into the goalmouth which Aaron Calver at full stretch on the far post, managed to steer back across goal, right into the stride of Siem De Jong.

As he prodded the ball into the net from four yards, Andrew Durante took him out with a tackle from behind which left the scorer in a crumpled heap, and unable to continue, with De Jong hobbling off after treatment for a knee injury – ankle damage also looked likely from the tackle, for which Durante somehow avoided punishment.

After Andrew Redmayne acrobatically prevented an Alex Rufer from reaching Steven Taylor on the far post, O’Neill sent a twenty-five yarder flying past the post before they lost Caceres to an injury five minutes before half-time.

His replacement, Alex Brosque, was swiftly in the thick of things, Kurto racing out of goal to save at his feet within seconds of the newcomer’s introduction, then repeating the feat on the stroke of half-time, Ninkovic and O’Neill having combined to play in the newcomer.

The second spell began in lively fashion, with Kurto grabbing Le Fondre’s curling effort before Liberato Cacace made some in-roads down the left for Wellington. His low cross was cleared by Alex Wilkinson, one of seven Sydney outfield players inside the penalty area – keeping Wellington out was clearly high on their list of priorities.

Ninkovic’s splendid solo run in the 52nd minute saw him slalom past five opponents before Kurto saved at his feet, the ‘keeper looking on four minutes later as substitute Daniel De Silva drilled one narrowly past the far post after Le Fondre, the instigator of the raid, had seen his shot blocked by Taylor.

This came seconds after Cacace – he, like his team as a whole, was a more prominent attacking force in the second spell – had charged down the left before slipping a pass to Sheridan, whose low cross to the near post, intended for Krishna, was prevented from reaching the Fijian by the covering figure of Ben Warland, who was rock-solid throughout for the visitors.

Krishna had enjoyed few favours from Sydney’s defence all evening, but in the 57th minute finally saw some daylight on the right, and swiftly exploited it, charging goalwards before steering a pass into the stride of substitute Sarpreet Singh as he arrived on the edge of the penalty area. He should have done better than to direct his shot straight at Redmayne.

After Brosque had once more been denied by Kurto, having seen his initial attempt blocked by the well-performed Taylor, Wellington were gifted a penalty which should never have been eight minutes from time.

Once again, it was the inexperience of referee Elder which was exposed. Krishna and Singh combined for the benefit of Taylor, who fouled Michael Zullo before going down over the defender’s outstretched leg.

The referee instantly pointed to the spot, much to the ire of the Sydney players and coach Steve Corica, who was booked for his understandably irate reaction to yet another officiating blunder.

This one could have cost Sydney a win, but after the ball had been blown off the penalty spot – it was a typical Wellington evening – Krishna finally stepped up to the mark, only to see Redmayne plunge to his right and save his penalty.

Sydney saw out time to clinch a welcome 1-0 win, which lifts them into second place on the standings, while ending Wellington’s club record run of matches without defeat – a tenth such match proved beyond them on this occasion.

Match details

Crowd: 8,961

Wellington Phoenix FC: 1. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 2. Aaron CALVER, 3. Benjamin WARLAND, 4. Alex WILKINSON, 6. Joshua BRILLANTE, 7. Michael ZULLO, 9. Adam LE FONDRE (8. Paulo RETRE 90+1’), 10. Milos NINKOVIC, 13. Brandon O’NEILL, 17. Anthony CACERES (14. Alex BROSQUE 39’), 22. Siem de JONG (11. Daniel DE SILVA 29’).
Subs Not Used: 20. Aleksander CISAK (GK), 31. Luke IVANOVIC.

Yellow Cards: 10. Milos NINKOVIC 45+5’, 13. Brandon O’NEILL 63’, 14. Alex BROSQUE 84
Coach: Mark Rudan

Sydney FC: 1. Filip KURTO (GK), 4. Amando SOSA PENA, 7. Cillian SHERIDAN (11. David WILLIAMS 64’), 9. Nathan BURNS (18. Sarpreet SINGH 54’), 13. Liberato CACACE, 14. Alex FUFER, 15. Michael KOPCZYNSKI, 16. Louis FENTON, 21. Roy KRISHNA, 22. Andrew DURANTE, 27. Steven TAYLOR.
Subs not used: 20. Oliver SAIL (GK), 5. Ryan LOWRY, 19. Thomas DOYLE.

Yellow Cards: 7. Cillian SHERIDAN 32’
Coach: Steve Corica

Points and ratings

Match 4/10
Pitch 8/10

Referee: Daniel Elder 1/10 – well out of his depth!

Players points:
3. Ninkovic
2. Kurto
1. O’Neill