Wellington edge Western Sydney in dramatic finale

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 14 – 2018/2019 – Round 12
7:50pm, Tuesday 8 January, 2019 – Homebush Stadium

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2 (Brendan Hamill 42′, Keanu Baccus 84′)
lost to
Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (Louis Fenton 36′, Roy Krishna ’82, 89′)

Wellington Phoenix equalled a club record of seven successive games without defeat on January 8 as they edged Western Sydney Wanderers 3-2 in front of 7,288 fans at ANZ Stadium, with three of the game’s five goals coming inside the last eight minutes.

The home team had numerous reasons to wonder if the footballing gods were conspiring against them in the opening quarter hour, during which time playmaker Alex Baumjohann hobbled off with a hamstring problem, Brendan Hamill had a goal ruled out by the offside flag, and the Video Assistant Referee prompted the overturning of a penalty awarded by referee Jonathan Barreiro.

He didn’t hesitate to point to the spot when deeming that Louis Fenton had fouled Bruce Kamau as the latter skipped past him towards the byline inside the area, but the two angles available to the VAR didn’t offer conclusive evidence of a foul, instead suggesting that Kamau had made the most of the opportunity to go to ground.

Referee Barreiro, upon sighting the available footage, duly changed his mind, prompting a chorus of boos from Wests’ fans who were fully expecting to see their side take the lead from the penalty spot.

Instead, it remained scoreless, Roly Bonevacia’s twenty-yarder flying narrowly wide of his old club’s near post twenty minutes into a match in which Wellington had fired just one shot in anger to this point in time, an early Sarpreet Singh free-kick which skidded past the far post some thirty yards away in the seventh minute.

Their next attempt on goal materialised in the 33rd minute, and deserved to open the scoring. Tom Doyle’s quickly taken free-kick saw a measured ball arrive into the stride of Roy Krishna’s angled darting run, with the Fijian’s shot from the inside left channel beating Vedran Janjetovic all ends up, only to fly to safety off the inside of his near post.

After Filip Kurto had made a flying save to his left to keep out Nick Fitzgerald’s twenty-five yarder, Wellington opened the scoring in the 36th minute through Fenton, whose surging run down the right culminated in a one-two with Singh, whose return pass gave the wingback time to control the ball in the area before stabbing it past Janjetovic.

1-0 very nearly became 2-0 sixty seconds later. Tate Russell’s lazy backpass was pounced on by Krishna, who would surely have scored had Janjetovic not been alert to the danger and cleared the ball off his toes.

Instead, Wests levelled the scores three minutes before half-time, Hamill’s glancing header from Fitzgerald’s corner enough to beat Kurto, who came, saw and was conquered on this occasion.

Wests’ attacking spearhead, Oriol Riera, injured himself in the build-up to this attack, and before play resumed following the equaliser, he, too, was bound for the bench. His replacement, Kwame Yeboah, quickly made his presence known, latching onto Kamau’s flick-on of Janjetovic’s raking clearance in first half stoppage time to get to the by-line and whip in a cross which ricocheted off Kamau and just past the post.

Wests carried this form into the second half, initially. Yeboah’s super angled pass invited Kamau to take on all-comers in the 46th minute, an opportunity the striker relished. Four opponents later, he pulled the trigger, only for Kurto to smother his shot.

Seconds later, Bonevacia’s driving run resulted in Fitzgerald enjoying a great chance to put the home side in charge on the scoreboard, but from a position where he should have at least hit the target, he sliced his shot wide.

After this brief flurry of activity, there was only one noteworthy goal-threatening incident during the next half-hour of play, a fine save by Janjetovic to deny David Williams from the edge of the ‘D’.

There were a host of other incidents, however, not all of them savoury. Referee Barreiro had his hands full keeping the peace at times, but managed to keep all 22 players on the park.

About fifteen minutes from time, the heavens opened, a tropical downpour cooling tempers and prompting a remarkable finale to a match which, on the evidence of what had gone before, could never have been predicted.

New Wellington recruit Cillian Sheridan went close before Kurto superbly thwarted Yeboah in a one-on-one situation, something which Janjetovic failed to replicate in spectacular fashion eight minutes from time.

Sheridan’s pass sent Krishna haring through the inside left channel, and he swept past the recklessly advancing goalkeeper with ease before firing Wellington back in front, 2-1.

That lead lasted all of two minutes, and again it was a set-piece strike which unhinged the visitors. Fitzgerald’s deep corner to the far post picked out Keanu Baccus, who fair battered the ball home via the underside of the crossbar from an acute angle to restore parity.

Now it was all on for young and old, with both teams striving for a winner in the time remaining. Kurto fumbled a Kamau shot to safety before the back-pedalling figure of Janjetovic plucked Sheridan’s long-range effort to safety in stoppage time, by which time Wellington had scored the winning goal.

It came in the 89th minute, and saw substitutes Max Burgess and Sheridan combine splendidly down the right before the former drilled in a near post cross. Anticipating it superbly was Krishna, who darted in between defenders before stooping to send a bullet header flying between Janjetovic and the upright, thus clinching a 3-2 win for Wellington, who lie just four points off second place with this win.

Match details

Crowd: 7,288

Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Janjetovic (gk); Russell, Ziegler, Hamill (booked, 62), Elrich; O’Doherty, Baumjohann (Fitzgerald, 6), Baccus; Kamau, Riera (Yeboah, 44 (booked, 59)), Bonevacia (booked, 70)

Wellington Phoenix FC: Kurto (gk); Taylor, Durante (booked, 8), Doyle; Fenton, Rufer (booked, 24), Kopzcynski (Nichols, 90), Cacace; Krishna, Singh (Burgess, 87), Williams (Sheridan, 63 (booked, 77)) – coach Mark Rudan (booked, 90)

Points and ratings, by Jeremy Ruane

Match 5/10
Pitch 7/10
Referee Jonathan Barreiro 4/10

Player points:
3. Krishna
2. Kamau
1. Kurto