Wellington hold Champions in Six-Goal thriller

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 14 – 2018/2019
Sunday 20 January, 2019 – Melbourne Football Stadium, Melbourne

Melbourne Victory 3
drew with
Wellington Phoenix FC 3


Reigning Hyundai A-League champions Melbourne Victory came from two goals down to hold Wellington Phoenix to a 3-3 draw in a thrilling AAMI Park encounter watched by an 18,136-strong crowd on January 20.

This rip-roaring encounter never let up from the first whistle, with Wellington forcing the first corner of the match inside the first sixty seconds. Sarpreet Singh’s delivery found Roy Krishna hurtling through a crowded goalmouth to direct a header straight at Lawrence Thomas, who parried it to safety.

Melbourne responded by opening the scoring in the fifth minute. Terry Antonis’ sumptuously weighted pass found Costa Barbarouses galloping down the right, and his first-time cross rolled perfectly into the stride of Ola Toivonen, who delicately lifted the ball over the approaching figure of Filip Kurto … a delicious goal.

And one matched by Wellington just two minutes later. Steven Taylor and Singh linked with Louis Fenton – he had the run of the right flank in the first half – whose overlapping run took him towards the byline, from where he whipped in a low cross which David Williams steered home at the near post. 1-1 – here’s hoping you weren’t a late arrival!

Wellington exploited the momentum of that goal to dominate proceedings thereafter, but Melbourne were next to go close to altering the scoreline, Tommy Deng’s sixteenth minute header, from Barbarouses’ cross, landing on the roof of the net.

Instantly, the visitors retaliated, Taylor sending Fenton down the right, from where he once more delivered a cross in Williams’ direction. Deng stepped in to avert the danger on this occasion, but in the nineteenth minute, a clumsy foul by Josh Hope saw Roy Krishna go down in the area.

Referee Jarred Gillett wasted little time in pointing to the spot, from where Krishna fired Wellington in front with a piledriver of a penalty. The Fijian then increased the visitors’ lead still further eight minutes later, earning himself a place in A-League history as the first player to score two or more goals in each of three consecutive matches.

Krishna’s second goal of the game saw him released on a diagonal run by Alex Rufer, whose best-ever display in a Wellington shirt this was. Krishna then back-heeled the ball to Williams and kept on running, as the game’s first goalscorer pulled the trigger from twenty-five yards.

Thomas, as is his wont, produced another fine parried save to his right to keep out the effort, but the prone goalkeeper could only look on in horror as Krishna, still running on, loomed into view and duly drove the ball home – 3-1 Wellington, much to the delight of the travelling army of supporters occupying a corner of AAMI Park.

Melbourne were all at sea at this development, and things started to get a little niggly as the home team’s frustrations were directed towards their opponents, who weren’t having a bar of the usual script followed by the title-holders’ opposition.

Indeed, they came close on two separate occasions to making it 4-1 inside the last five minutes of the half. Williams released Singh on the overlap in the 41st minute, and he evaded a challenge before whipping in a cross to the near post, where Krishna was arriving.

So, too, was Leigh Broxham, whose intervention thwarted the Fijian’s hat-trick hopes. Krishna wasn’t done, however, and within sixty seconds he was tormenting Deng with a bewitching run to the byline, from where he pulled the ball back into Williams’ stride.

His shot was parried by Thomas, the ball rebounding into the goalmouth where Singh, in his eagerness to turn the ball home, felled Broxham from behind, thus affording Melbourne temporary relief.

They looked to take full advantage of that let-off before the half-time whistle. Catching Andrew Durante in possession as he charged into Melbourne’s half, James Troisi instantly whipped a pass in behind the retreating Tom Doyle for Barbarouses to latch onto.

His shot on the run was turned round the post by Kurto, who smothered the last chance of the half on the stroke of half-time, a twenty yarder from Hope after Barbarouses had got in on the right once more before Toivonen turned his cross into the stride of the youngster, who was withdrawn for the second half.

Raul Baena was introduced in his place and instantly gave Melbourne a cohesion which had been lacking from their play in the first spell. Within three minutes, patient approach play by the champions came close to being rewarded when Troisi threaded the ball through for Barbarouses, only for the retreating Liberato Cacace to step in and avert the danger.

Five minutes later, with Melbourne pressing on attack, the ball broke for Williams to surge downfield, ably supported by Singh steaming through the inside left channel. The pass duly arrived in the playmaker’s stride, but so, too, did Deng, who blocked the effort to safety.

It really was “Game on!” in the 56th minute as Melbourne halved the deficit. Baena ignited a scintillating move which also involved Barbarouses before Troisi worked a one-two with Toivonen before steering the ball home from ten yards – 3-2.

The title-holders smelt blood and, urged on by their fans, they piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser. Kurto plunged to his left to turn a deflected Barbarouses shot to safety after Baena and Storm Roux had combined in the 61st minute.

Four minutes later, Wellington’s ‘keeper was rooted to the spot after Baena pounced on a stray Taylor pass. Barbarouses was instantly released down the right, his cross inviting Antonis to let fly with a shot which crashed against the upright, much to the relief of the stranded goalkeeper.

Cue a Wellington riposte, Krishna blazing over at the near post when the far-better-placed figure of Singh would have converted a low cross. Then Rufer sent a twenty-five yarder sizzling over the bar, seconds after Kurto had grabbed Elvis Kamsoba’s acute-angled cross following a raid led by Troisi.

Kurto featured once again in the 82nd minute, grabbing substitute Kenny Athiu’s header from a Baena cross after fellow replacement Kimbosa had made in-roads down the left.

The last-mentioned was in again seconds later, only to see Kurto dive to his right to maintain Wellington’s advantage. The visitors were looking to strike on the counter-attack, and nearly did so four minutes from time when Rufer and substitute Michal Kopzcynski combined for fellow replacement Cillian Sheridan’s benefit, only for Deng to produce a super tackle to thwart him in the act of shooting.

Wellington pressed again in the 87th minute, Durante surging forward before feeding the hat-trick-hunting Krishna, who burst through three challenges on the edge of the area before beating Thomas with a shot which crept inches past the far post.

How crucial those inches proved to be, for from the resulting goal kick, Melbourne equalized with two minutes left on the clock. The increasingly influential Carl Valeri spread play wide to Antonis, whose cross was headed out by Durante straight to Barbarouses, who gleefully volleyed home the leveller against his old club – 3-3.

With their tails up, Melbourne went all out for the winner in stoppage time, but Durante blocked Troisi’s attempt following a short free-kick before Valeri hammered a shot into the hoardings after a Barbarouses cross was cleared into his stride on the edge of the penalty area, ensuring the final 3-3 scoreline, one befitting a fine encounter between two well-matched sides.

Match details

Crowd: 18,136

Melbourne Victory FC: Thomas (gk); Roux, Deng, Broxham, Brown (booked, 59) (Kamsoba, 68); Antonis, Valeri, Hope (Baena, 46); Barbarouses, Troisi, Toivonen (booked, 35) (Athiu, 80) NB Coach Kevin Muscat (booked, 39)

Wellington Phoenix FC: Kurto (gk); Taylor, Durante, Doyle (booked, 81) (Fox, 84); Fenton, Rufer, Sosa (Kopzcynski, 84), Cacace; Krishna, Singh, Williams (booked, 40) (Sheridan, 62)

Points and ratings:

Match 8/10
Pitch 8/10

Referee Jarred Gillette 7/10

Players: Hard to leave a couple out this week
3. Deng (MV)
2. Rufer (WP)
1. Krishna (WP)
Honourable mentions – Fenton, Antonis, Barbarouses, Baena