Super-Savers Sail and Moss boss dynamic draw

by Jeremy Ruane

Hyundai A-League Season 14 – 2018/2019- Round 18
7:50pm, Thursday 7 February – Hunter Stadium, Broadmeadow

Newcastle United Jets FC 1 (Ronald Vargas 33′)
drew with
Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (David Williams 58′)


An outstanding display of goalkeeping by Wellington Phoenix’s Oliver Sail and his former team-mate Glen Moss, now of Newcastle Jets, dominated a dynamic 1-1 draw between their respective Hyundai A-League clubs at McDonald Jones Stadium on February 7.

It was nigh on thrill-a-minute fare at times, with 7,394 patrons treated to a feast of attacking football, including an unsuccessful penalty appeal apiece inside the opening two minutes of play.

The first threat on goal came six minutes later, with Liberato Cacace sending Johnny Koutroumbis around the world in fifteen seconds before whipping in a cross which Nikolai Topor-Stanley hacked away, but only to Mandi Sosa.

From twenty yards, he thundered a shot against the post, the ball rebounding to the incoming figure of Louis Fenton. With Moss stranded, the overlapping fullback’s first time effort flew past the post with the goal gaping invitingly.

It was a let-off for Newcastle, who survived another threat two minutes later when Cacace, having again given Koutroumbis a guided tour of his area of the pitch, let rip himself this time, only to find Moss saving solidly to his right.

The ‘keeper instantly launched a counter-attack, with Topor-Stanley securing possession on half-way before feeding Ronald Vargas, whose first-time pass picked out Roy O’Donovan tearing through the middle of Wellington’s defence. The striker’s touch failed him at the vital moment, affording Sail a comfortable save.

Newcastle kept pressing, however, with Nigel Boogaard and Koutroumbis combining with Dimitri Petratos, whose delicious angled low cross from the right flew just beyond the incoming figures of O’Donovan and Jason Hoffman, whose 200th A-League appearance this was.

Back came Wellington, Steven Taylor linking with Fenton, who evaded a challenge before delivering a teasing cross which was pawed away by Moss, with Roy Krishna hovering with intent had the ‘keeper erred in his actions.

Halfway through the first half, the home team mounted a delightful pass-laden raid, with Boogaard’s pass to Petratos inviting a deft back-heel into the stride of Hoffman, careering down the right. His whipped low cross was destined to arrive in O’Donovan’s stride, but Andrew Durante’s intervention curtailed those hopes.

The end-to-end nature of the contest ensued, with Alex Rufer, Taylor and Fenton combining in the 25th minute of a keenly fought encounter in which four players had already been booked – three more were to follow in the second spell.

The fullback linked with Sarpreet Singh, whose threaded through ball invited Krishna to give Moss something to think about. The Fijian’s shot thundered past the near post, while when Fenton next delivered a cross, on the half-hour, David Williams’ downward near post header was brilliantly saved by Moss.

In between times, Sail had also been busy, hurtling well out of his penalty area to head clear as O’Donovan chased a lost cause. But it was the Irishman’s partner in crime who broke the deadlock in the 33rd minute, in quite superb fashion at that.

There appeared little threat to Wellington when Daniel Georgievski worked his way down the left, but all that changed when he picked out Vargas in the penalty area. The Venezuelan evaded a challenge before splendidly wrong-footing two defenders and battering an absolute belter into the roof of the net at the near post from an ever-decreasing angle – a quite superb goal!

It must be said that it came somewhat against the run of play, as Wellington had without question been the more dominant team throughout the half. But they had failed to turn their superior possession into something more tangible, and conceding the opening goal rather knocked them off their stride for the remainder of the half.

Newcastle started the second spell in sensational form. Koutroumbis knocked one forward in the 48th minute, and while it was always Durante’s ball, O’Donovan’s anticipation that the defender would direct it back to Sail saw the striker put the ‘keeper under enormous pressure, to which Sail proved he was equal with a fine volleyed clearance.

Two minutes later, Petratos picked out the completely unmarked figure of Vargas from a corner. But with the goal at his mercy some six yards away, he headed past the post – a real let-off for Wellington, who made the most of it to get back on level terms soon afterwards.

After Krishna had done Topor-Stanley a treat with a sumptuous turn and resulting curling cross which arced just beyond the incoming figure of Williams, Cacace and Singh combined with Fenton in the 58th minute. He got to the byline before directing a low cross into the stride of Williams, who swept the ball home from fifteen yards into the bottom far corner of the net – 1-1.

Cue a staggering final half-hour during which Moss and Sail put themselves in lights with a string of fine saves. The latter was the first to be called into action, and he didn’t disappoint, pulling off a stunning double save to keep his side on level terms.

Georgievski sent the hard-working Steven Ugarkovic on the charge, the midfielder then linking with Petratos, whose shot was parried by Sail. O’Donovan followed up, and while his shot beat the recovering ‘keeper, the post came to Sail’s rescue.

Back the rebound came, into the stride of Petratos, who absolutely hammered it goalwards from twenty yards. Unbelievably, Sail produced an eye-popping reflex save to divert the ball over the bar – of all his denials in this match, this was probably the pick of them, which is saying something, because some of his other stops were every bit as good.

Such as that he produced four minutes later to thwart Hoffman, who had been picked out by Ugarkovic’s pass. The double centurion’s acute-angled volley from inside the area was tipped over the bar by Sail, who was called upon again two minutes later as Newcastle piled on the pressure.

Vargas was the architect of their next raid, in the 67th minute. His cross picked out Georgievski, whose effort was well parried by Sail. The ball was pounced on by Petratos, whose cross to the far post found the fullback flying in again, only for Sail to tip Georgievski’s headed effort onto the upright.

Still the home side strove to break the deadlock, Hoffman’s cross zooming across the bows of Vargas in the 71st minute, the latter’s final act of note in a contest which saw seven chances to break the deadlock materialise inside the final ten spell-binding minutes.

Cacace’s smart tracking run prevented O’Donovan from capitalising on another Ugarkovic pass, to which Wellington responded by mounting their first attack for some time, led by freshly introduced substitute Cillian Sheridan.

He it was who scampered down the left in the 83rd minute before picking out Krishna with a cross which he held up well before inviting Rufer to let fly. His twenty-five yarder sailed over the bar.

Buoyed by their first threat on goal since equalising, the visitors came again a minute later, Williams delivering a buffet ball of a cross from the right which Krishna, under pressure from Boogaard, contrived to lift over the bar from six yards – it seemed easier to score!

Wellington came again in the 87th minute, and when half-time substitute Ben Kantarovski felled Fenton just inside the area, referee Stephen Lucas had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot.

Instantly, Newcastle’s heads dropped. They had to get something from this match in order to stay in play-offs contention, given Wellington came into the contest eight points clear of their hosts with ten rounds – including this match – remaining.

But Wellington hadn’t reckoned on their old goalkeeper. Moss was one of three players in Newcastle’s squad – plus coach Ernie Merrick – who can point to time spent across the pond on their footballing CVs, and he enhanced his by saving Krishna’s penalty with his legs to ensure the scoreline wouldn’t be altered.

The visitors weren’t done with, forcing a stoppage time corner which Cacace delivered into the danger zone. Flying through the gathered throngs to meet it was Michal Kopczynski, whose header careered narrowly past Moss’ right-hand post.

Instantly, Newcastle retorted, with O’Donovan slaloming his way through Wellington’s rearguard to engineer a shooting chance, one blocked by Sail, who was a late replacement twixt the sticks for the ill Filip Kurto.

He could well have a job getting his position back after his stand-in’s exploits twixt the sticks, Sail’s saves securing a share of the spoils for Wellington as the Moss-inspired Newcastle kept their receding play-off hopes alive – how crucial will that late penalty save be in nine rounds’ time?

Match details:

Crowd: 7,394

Newcastle United FC: Moss (gk); Koutroumbis, Boogaard, Topor-Stanley, Georgievski (booked, 19) (Vujica, 82); Ugarkovic, Vargas (booked, 22) (Sheppard, 75), Ridenton (Kantarovski, 46); Petratos, O’Donovan, Hoffman (booked, 17)

Wellington Phoenix FC: Sail (gk) (booked, 90); Taylor, Durante, Kopczynski; Fenton, Rufer (booked, 19), Sosa (Sheridan, 82), Cacace; Krishna (booked, 65), Singh (Burgess, 76 (booked, 89)), Williams

Ratings and points

Referee: Stephen Lucas 6/10

Match 8/10
Pitch 8/10

Player points
3. Sail
3. Moss
Both outstanding!