Wellington make statement with Melbourne mauling

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

Hyundai A-League 2013/14, Round 15
7:30pm, Saturday 18 January, 2014 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Wellington Phoenix FC 5

(Hernandez 21′, 47′ (pen), Cunningham 46′, Brockie 85′, Huysegems 87′ )


Melbourne Victory FC 0

Wellington Phoenix made a statement of some note in the Hyundai A-League at Westpac Stadium on January 18, mauling third-placed Melbourne Victory 5-0 in front of 6,813 fans to close to within six points of their well-beaten opponents, who have played a game more.

After a fairly cagey opening by both sides, the game exploded into life in the eighteenth minute when Wellington opened the scoring. Glen Moss launched a free-kick downfield which resulted in an aerial duel in the centre of the park, the ball falling kindly into Vince Lia’s stride.

He slipped a pass through the inside right channel for Carlos Hernandez to latch onto, and the former Melbourne Victory favourite controlled it with one touch before lashing a vicious drive beyond the diving Nathan Coe and into the far corner of the net from the edge of the penalty area – 1-0 Wellington, much to the delight of the natives.

They piled on the pressure thereafter. Albert Riera – simply outstanding, both in defence and attack – intercepted a pass four minutes later and instantly released Kenny Cunningham down the left. He evaded a challenge before curling a sumptuous cross into the goalmouth with the outside of his right boot.

Coe snatched the ball off the toes of its intended target, Stein Huysegems, while seconds later, Adama Traore was forced to block a shot at close quarters from the Belgian, after he had been picked out by Hernandez’s precise pass on the edge of the penalty area.

Melbourne were struggling to make any head-way against opponents who were visibly sharper and hungrier. Save for Guihelme Finkler’s 24th minute free-kick, an Archie Thompson air-shot ten minutes before half-time – Costa Barbarouses’ bravado deserved better reward – and a glancing header from Rashid Mahazi which flashed past the post seven minutes later, they were a shadow of their usual selves.

Wellington, meanwhile, were a revelation, with Riera’s bravura display backed up by a solid defensive display, with Michael Boxall in particular catching the eye as much in attack as in the area of the park in which he usually plies his trade.

The fullback was picked out by a peach of a Manny Muscat pass in the 31st minute, and was only prevented from doing it justice by Coe’s anticipation. The ‘keeper thwarted Boxall at close quarters, and was ably backed up by Adrian Leijer, who headed off the line as Huysegems looked to lash home the rebound.

Boxall’s new-found attacking instincts didn’t convert to goalscoring, however, as proven by his awful attempt to head home a Hernandez corner a minute before half-time, with the corner-taker’s goal all that separated the teams at this point.

By the time referee Adam Kersey blew his whistle to signal the interval, Melbourne were as good as beaten – Wellington struck twice more in that time to head to the dressing rooms 3-0 to the good.

The first goal was a stunner – there’s no other way to describe it! Hernandez played a pass to Cunningham some thirty yards out from goal, and the Costa Rican unleashed a dipping volley which arced over the flailing fingertips of Coe and into the top corner of the net – an instinctive, unstoppable strike which simply flew into the net!

Wellington’s fans were still celebrating this “Goal of the Season” contender when their charges stormed forth once more, Boxall leading the charge down the right. He got to the by-line before whipping in a cross which was cleared to Hernandez on the edge of the penalty area.

Into it he surged, only for Mahazi to send him flying. Unfortunately for the midfielder, referee Kersey was five yards away, and had a perfect view of it – penalty. Hernandez picked himself up, dusted himself down, and sent Coe the wrong way from the spot – 3-0 Wellington, a scoreline which, given the history between these clubs, no-one could possibly have anticipated being the case after just forty-five minutes of action.

That Melbourne were still in a state of shock at these late first half developments was still in evidence two minutes into the second spell, when Huysegems was gifted possession just outside the visitors’ penalty area. He looked to set up Cunningham inside the box, but the combined efforts of Leigh Broxham and Coe spared Melbourne’s blushes on this occasion.

Two minutes later, the visitors were finally sighted as an attacking force of note – you would think a team boasting the attacking talents of Archie Thompson, James Troisi – the league’s leading scorer heading into this match – and Barbarouses would have at least stung the gloves of Moss before half-time.

Not so, but Wellington’s ‘keeper was called into action on this occasion, plunging to his right to keep out Thompson’s diving header after he had been picked out by Barbarouses’ precise cross from the right.

It was a signal that the visitors intended to be a tad more adventurous in the second spell – as one would hope, given the scoreline! They threatened again on the hour, with Moss saving at the feet of Thompson after Barbarouses had buccaneered his way down the left against his old club.

But when Traore sent a long-range effort soaring over the bar half-way through the second spell, it pretty much summed up Melbourne’s night, which, unbeknown to them, was to get worse still, a decent penalty claim by Broxham being turned down fifteen minutes from time notwithstanding.

They could have been four goals down on the hour. Huysegems’ free-kick was punched out by Coe to Lia, who saw two shots blocked.

The rebound from the second effort fell to Tyler Boyd, who turned his marker before lashing a rising cross-shot goalwards which required Coe to tip it over the bar to be certain it would stay out.

In the 68th minute, Boyd caught Leijer in possession half-way inside Melbourne’s half and raced goalwards, the tackled man in hot pursuit. Just as Boyd played the ball into Cunningham’s stride, Leijer clipped him, putting referee Kersey in two minds re playing the advantage. He did, but Cunningham’s cross came to nought.

After Ben Sigmund had sent a Huysegems corner bulleting over the bar – the Belgian was in charge of set-pieces following the precautionary early second half withdrawal of an understandably disappointed Hernandez – Wellington forced another save from Coe in the 72nd minute.

Riera’s splendid pass sent Boyd barrelling in off the left flank, but he shot straight at the ‘keeper, who was relieved to see Leijer thwarting Boyd at the near post seconds later, Huysegems having linked with substitute Matthew Ridenton during a right flank raid.

Boyd was in again in the 74th minute, and should have at least hit the target upon receipt of another beautifully weighted pass from Riera, whose sumptuous through ball five minutes from time rewarded the angled run of substitute Jeremy Brockie.

The out-of-form striker, who was dropped in favour of Boyd for this match, took the pass on in his stride and, without hesitating, fired a first-time shot across Coe from the edge of the penalty area.

The sight of the ball entering the net by the foot of the far post was the cue for Brockie to go nuts – if he’d been able to leap into the shirtless throngs of Yellow Fever fans in Block 23 to celebrate with them, he would have done, no question!

That goal was a massive boost for Brockie’s confidence, and within three minutes, he was setting up Wellington’s fifth goal. Flicking a Boxall throw-in over his head allowed him to outfox his opponent before making a bee-line for the by-line.

From there, Brockie picked out Huysegems with his back to goal eight yards out from the target. The Belgian’s control of the low cross was exquisite, his cushioned touch allowing the ball to bounce.

As it did, he swivelled, and unleashed a venomous low, left-foot drive which arrowed beyond Coe and into the net to cap off one of the biggest wins in Wellington’s history. And it was one they richly deserved over opponents who were very much second-best in this encounter, victims of a footballing display overseen by their former mentor.

Even Ernie Merrick couldn’t hide his delight after this performance. In terms of footballing quality, it was unquestionably Wellington’s best yet.

Match details

Wellington Phoenix FC: Moss (gk); Boxall, Sigmund, Durante, Muscat; Lia (booked, 28′), Riera, Cunningham; Boyd (Brockie +80′), Hernandez (Ridenton +51′), Huysegems

Melbourne Victory FC: Coe (gk); Broxham (Murnane +82′), Leijer (booked, 68), Contreras (booked, 64), Traore (booked, 14); Jeggo (Brown +68′), Finkler (Makarounas +55′), Thompson, Mahazi (booked, 78); Barbarouses, Troisi

Ratings and points

Referee: Adam Kersey 7/10 – the boy done good!
Match 7/10
Pitch 8/10

Players points:
3. Riera (WP)
2 Boxall (WP)
1 Hernandez (WP)

By Jeremy Ruane