Defences dominate in dour draw

by Jeremy Ruane

with the compliments of

A-League Season 2013/2014 – Round 3

5pm, Sunday 27 October, 2013 at McLean Park, Napier, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 0
drew with
Newcastle Jets FC 0

Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets battled out a dour scoreless draw in front of 9,020 fans at Napier’s McLean Park in their third round Hyundai A-League clash on 27 October, 2013.

Defences dominated proceedings, as the scoreline suggests, although both teams hit the crossbar in this encounter, Carlos Hernandez doing so for Wellington with a twenty-yarder in the sixth minute.

That shot followed an Andrew Hoole effort which stung the gloves of Glen Moss, the youngster having latched onto a Ruben Zadkovich pass before scooting past three opponents.

Zadkovich himself was next to chance his arm, his twenty-five yard free-kick crashing against the crossbar in the nineteenth minute. Scott Neville latched onto the rebound, but his shot was blocked by Moss, which presented the fullback with another opportunity to break the deadlock.

This time, Neville’s shot deflected off Ben Sigmund, and was cleared off the line by Leo Bertos – a real let-off for Wellington, who were second-best for much of the first half.

Neville featured again in the 26th minute, having been picked out by Hoole. His driven cross beyond the far post found Nathan Burns arriving on cue, and he duly set up Josh Brilliante for a shot which fizzed narrowly over from twenty yards.

Moss made two saves either side of half-time to deny Adam Taggart and Burns, saving at the feet of the former before diving to his right to deny the latter as the visitors continued to press for their first goal of the season.

Newcastle’s captain, Zadkovich, was next to threaten the target, his 41st minute free-kick being headed away by Sigmund, a denial which prompted a flurry of chances at the other end of the park before the half-time whistle.

Hernandez picked out Stein Huysegems with a whipped cross in the 43rd minute which the striker met with a smart header. Newcastle ‘keeper Mark Birighitti saved superbly, and raced out to clear off the toes of the same player moments later, as Huysegems pursued a stray Zadkovich back-pass.

In between times, Ben Kantarovski’s timely tackle denied Hernandez in the act of shooting following a delightful interchange of passes involving the Costa Rican, Ifill and Huysegems, who went desperately close with a stopping header as the half drew to a close, Hernandez having picked out his team-mate with a measured free-kick.

Wellington coach Ernie Merrick introduced Albert Riera to the fray at half-time in an effort to get a grip on the midfield battle, and the Spaniard was soon imposing himself on proceedings.

In the 49th minute, he sent Huysegems off on a driving run which brought Bertos and Vince Lia into play, the latter’s low-angled cross fizzing just beyond the otherwise anonymous Jeremy Brockie as he raced into the goalmouth.

Two minutes later, Moss denied Burns after he had picked out by Brilliante’s cross-field ball, while after Birighitti had somehow kept out Andrew Durante’s 62ndminute header – the defender had nipped in behind Newcastle’s defence as Hernandez curled in another inviting free-kick, Wellington hit the woodwork again.

And again, it was Hernandez whose misfortune it was to be denied. Manny Muscat’s cross was flapped at by Birighitti, the ball falling into the stride of Wellington’s new playmaker, whose snapshot struck the outside of the post as the untended goal yawned invitingly.

The largely uninspiring nature of the match continued right through to its conclusion, with Newcastle twice going close to breaking the deadlock in the last ten minutes. Moss comfortably dealt with substitute James Brown’s header in the 82nd minute, while in stoppage time, both Neville and Sam Gallaway failed to capitalise on the opening created by Burns’ corner to the far post.

The scoreless scoreline – the only drawn match of the round – left both teams occupying spots in the lower reaches of the league at this early stage of the campaign, and kept Newcastle waiting for their first goal of the season for a further week. There was enough evidence seen in this contest, however, to suggest that they won’t have much longer to wait before the drought will be broken.


Wellington: Moss; Bertos, Sigmund, Durante, Caira; Ifill (Riera, 46 (booked, 83)), Muscat, Lia (Hicks, 70); Brockie, Hernandez, Huysegems (Cunningham, 80)

Newcastle: Birighitti; Neville, Jaliens (booked, 80), Chapman, Gallaway; Brilliante (booked, 16), Kantarovski (booked, 88), Zadkovich (Pepper, 63); Hoole (Brown, 70), Taggart (Bridges, 75), Burns

Referee: Adam Kersey


Match – 4/10
Referee – 6/10
Pitch – 7/10

3. Mark Birighitti (NJ)
2. Ben Sigmund (WP)
1. Nathan Burns (NJ)