Wellington come from behind to kick off New Year

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

Hyundai A-League 2013/14 season, Round 13
7pm, Wedneday 1 January, 2014 – Parramatta Stadium

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 1
(Mark Bridge 62′)
lost to
Wellington Phoenix FC 3
(Stein Huysegems 78′, 83′, Tyler Boyd 68′)

Wellington Phoenix kicked off Hyundai A-League action for 2014 by stunning the reigning premiers, Western Sydney Wanderers, on 1 January, coming from behind to score a 3-1 victory in front of 14,151 fans at Pirtek Stadium, in Parramatta.

It was a terrific victory for the visitors, given they realised it without two of their attacking lynchpins, Carlos Hernandez having joined Paul Ifill in the treatment room after fracturing a bone in his wrist which will sideline the Costa Rican international for six weeks.

Western Sydney went into this match as warm favourites, given they boasted an unbeaten record on home soil dating back to virtually a year ago, as well as the league’s most miserly rearguard.

However, they’re not the most attack-oriented of teams, averaging little more than a goal per game so far this season. They were harshly denied the chance to improve that record inside the first thirty seconds of this match, however, Tomi Juric wrongly called offside as he burst through onto a Jerome Polenz through ball.

Two minutes later, another Polenz pass had implications at the other end of the park, it being a wayward one. Jeremy Brockie pounced on the gift, but was prevented from fully exploiting it by Michael Beauchamp’s timely intervention on the edge of the penalty area.

A similar challenge by Ben Sigmund thwarted Mark Bridge’s plans to open the scoring in the ninth minute of the match, while there was another harsh offside call against Juric four minutes later, as he met Iacopo La Rocca’s cross with a diving header which flashed inches over the bar.

It took another ten minutes for further goalmouth action to materialise, both teams tending to cancel each other out in a match which saw the visitors containing Western Sydney while, at the same time, edging possession, although Wellington failed to create a great deal themselves.

Stein Huysegems’ efforts to buck the trend in the 23rd minute saw him go close to breaking the deadlock with a fine solo effort, contriving a shooting opportunity on the edge of the penalty area despite the presence of four opponents in the immediate vicinity.

His effort flew over the bar, while that struck by Aaron Mooy, on the half-hour upon receipt of a cushioned header from Shinji Ono, was a mistimed volley which reared up in front of Glen Moss and struck the goalkeeper, who was relieved to see Andrew Durante on hand to avert the danger.

Wellington’s injury woes were further added to six minutes before half-time, courtesy a recurrence of Louis Fenton’s shoulder problem which forced coach Ernie Merrick into making a premature change, Michael Boxall coming off the bench in place of the fullback, who was clearly in a great deal of pain after another awkward landing.

Western Sydney looked to exploit this unfortunate development in the minutes before half-time, initially through Youssouf Hersi – a tame effort which gave Moss scant cause for concern – then, soon after Brockie’s cross-shot had been grabbed by Ante Covic, through Ono, who was picked out by Polenz’s cross and deserved better than to see his eight-yard header hit the crossbar.

The second half was five minutes old when Ono swooped on a stray Boxall pass and sped off downfield, the substitute in hot pursuit.

The Japanese international slipped the ball inside to Hersi, whose drive forced Moss into a smothering save by his left-hand post.

Within seconds, Hersi was appealing for a penalty after going down under Durante’s challenge in the goalmouth as he looked to head home another Ono cross, while Juric was once more denied by the offside flag in the 52nd minute as he tucked the ball into the net.

Wellington were denied a free-kick on the edge of Western Sydney’s penalty area ten minutes into the second half, Kenny Cunningham having been tripped by Polenz as he looked to latch onto Huysegems’ through ball. Referee Lucien Laverdure, who, by and large, had a good game, erred on this occasion.

Western Sydney broke the deadlock in the 62nd minute with a superbly worked goal. Ono was its instigator, playing a pass to Mooy who promptly threaded the ball inside to Bridge.

The striker dummied it, allowing the sphere to roll on into Hersi’s stride while Bridge spun off on a forward run. Hersi, meanwhile, played a first-time pass to Ono which invited the playmaker to execute the most delicate chipped pass over the defence into Bridge’s stride. The striker deftly flicked the ball over the advancing Moss – 1-0, a splendidly crafted strike.

It took all of five minutes for Wellington to restore parity. Huysegems worked a one-two with freshly introduced substitute, Matthew Ridenton, on the right before threading a low cross to the far post. Racing in to meet it was half-time substitute Tyler Boyd, who slid in to steer home a deserved equaliser from six yards.

This raised the level of the game, with second-placed Western Sydney now having to go all out for a second goal. Fifteen minutes from time, La Rocca let fly with a shot which Moss was right behind, while five minutes later, Wellington’s goalkeeper smothered a twenty-yarder from substitute Brendon Santalab.

In between times, however, the visitors stunned their hosts by taking the lead. Mooy was caught in possession just outside his penalty area by Huysegems, who powered forward before stepping inside two covering defenders and curling a low shot past the unsighted figure of Covic and in by the base of the far post.

If Wellington were delighted at making the scoreline 2-1 with twelve minutes remaining, you can only imagine their delight when they capped off their come-from-behind triumph five minutes later.

Their substitutes were at the heart of the points-clinching goal. Boxall pounced on a loose ball half-way inside Western Sydney’s half and instantly fed Ridenton, who swept it wide to Boyd. He surged down the right before steering a low cross into the goalmouth, where Huysegems was arriving on cue, along with three defenders.

The striker made light of being outnumbered by outfoxing all present with the most delicious of back-heeled flicks which left Covic rooted to the spot and did something which few will achieve – silenced the “Red and Black Brigade”, whose constant wall of sound had been a feature of the match to this point.

There could have been a fourth goal for Wellington, with Boyd lashing a drive past the near post five minutes from time on receipt of Brockie’s pass, but the visitors were well content with their third successive win of the campaign, this one in particular serving notice to the rest of the league that Ernie Merrick’s men mean business in 2014.

Match details
Crowd: 14,151

Western Sydney Wanderers FC: Covic (gk); Polenz (booked 90), Beauchamp, Topor-Stanley, D’Apuzzo; La Rocca, Ono (Haliti +79), Mooy (Trifiro +86); Hersi, Juric, Bridge (Santalab +71)

Wellington Phoenix FC: Moss (gk); Fenton (Boxall, 40 (booked, 90)), Sigmund, Durante, Muscat; Lia, Riera, Hicks (Ridenton +46), Cunningham (booked, 32) (Boyd +63); Brockie (booked, 65), Huysegems

Points and ratings

Match 5/10
Pitch 6/10

Referee: Lucien Laverdure 6/10

Players points:
3. Ben Sigmund (WP)
2. Sinji Ono (WSW)
1. Riera (WP)

By Jeremy Ruane