First win of season an undeserved one for Wanderers

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 10 – 2014/2015 – Round 16
5pm, Sunday 8 February, 2015 – Penrith Stadium

Western Sydney Wanderers FC 2 (Rukavytsya 18′, Santalab 91′)
Wellington Phoenix FC 0


Western Sydney Wanderers scored their maiden win of the 2014-15 Hyundai A-League season at Sportingbet Stadium in Penrith on February 9, although how Wellington Phoenix lost this game 2-0 remains a mystery.

The visitors absolutely bossed possession, and created a plethora of chances, only to encounter a resolute defence whose defiance was such that the number of saves Ante Covic had to make come the final whistle could be counted on the fingers of one hand.

His goal first came under threat in the third minute, Ben Sigmund flighting a gem of a ball into the stride of Nathan Burns, who deftly rounded Covic but found himself on too acute an angle to slot home the game’s opening goal.

Wests responded via a deflected chipped effort from Yusuke Tanaka, which Glen Moss grabbed greedily in the eighth minute, eight minutes before he had to smother a twenty-yarder from Tomi Juric, seconds after Covic had cut out a Louis Fenton cross intended for Roy Krishna, after the fullback had raced up in support of a slick right flank raid featuring Roly Bonevacia, Burns and Michael McGlinchey.

To the delight of the 12,663 fans present, the reigning Asian club champions took the lead in the eighteenth minute. Labinot Haliti’s cross from the left picked out Mateo Poljak, whose deft header down invited Nikita Rukavytsya to swivel and slam the ball home on the volley from twelve yards – a cracking strike to break the deadlock.

He nearly scored with a similar effort two minutes later, Moss smothering the shot low to his left after Manny Muscat’s attempted clearance had ricocheted straight to the goalscorer.

Moss denied Rukavytsya again on the half-hour, as the striker for once managed to stay onside as he pursued Mark Bridge’s ball over the top. This sparked a stunning Wellington counter-attack which would have been a ‘Goal of the Season’ contender had they found a way past Covic.

Breaking out of defence, Krishna fed McGlinchey, who instantly released Burns through the inside left channel and raced forward in support of the league’s leading marksman.

Burns took on the defence, all the while aware of McGlinchey’s angled run. When he got within range, Burns’ deft back-heel invited the All White to continue the raid, and he evaded a challenge before getting to the edge of the goal area, where the combined efforts of both Poljak and Covic prevented McGlinchey from equalising.

If that was close, Burns’ effort two minutes later was even more so. The striker took on and beat two opponents before threading a cross in between three players for Krishna to exploit.

The Fijian was a stride too late, however, so the ball continued upon its trajectory, curling agonisingly past the far post with Covic looking on, more than a hint of good fortune etched on his face.

Wests finished the half in the ascendancy, Juric taking on Sigmund before seeing his shot smothered by Moss in the 35th minute. Five minutes later, a teasing twenty-five yarder from Haliti curled tantalisingly past Moss’ left-hand post, before two successive stray passes from Vince Lia – little wonder he was dragged at half-time – put Wellington under all sorts of pressure.

Moss was giving his team-mate daggers, in terms of looks, after having to pull off a splendid fingertip save to deny Matthew Spiranovic’s twenty-five yarder, and it’s safe to say a number of the comments directed towards Lia afterwards wouldn’t have been of the printable variety!

Juric spurned another chance when heading a cross from Shannon Cole – on in place of the goalscorer, who hobbled off with a calf strain – past the post soon after, while there was still time for Bonevacia to send a twenty-five yarder sliding past the post at the other end of the park before referee Stephen Lucas – a real ‘hometown ref’ if his 50-50 decisions in this game are anything to go by – blew the half-time whistle.

Wellington began the second half brightly, Bonevacia and Fenton combining on the right in the fiftieth minute, with the fullback’s cross deflecting off Antony Golec to Krishna, whose acute-angled shot was kept out by Covic’s outstretched leg.

Two minutes later, a McGlinchey corner caused Wests problems, and while they cleared that threat, Andrew Durante soon had the ball back in the danger zone, after which Bonevacia battered a twenty-five yarder narrowly past the far post.

After Moss had anticipated the threat posed by Cole as he attempted to get on the end of a teasing Haliti cross, Burns – a constant menace throughout this match – was felled on the edge of the penalty area. McGlinchey’s short free-kick invited Albert Riera to let fly, and the ball did, nearly striking the scoreboard perched well above the goal below.

Still Wellington pressed, Sigmund combining with substitute Michael Boxall in the 67th minute. The powerfully built defender with a striker’s instincts evaded a challenge before forcing Covic to block at his near post. The rebound fell invitingly towards Krishna, but before he could pounce, Brendan Hamill stepped in to save the day for Western Sydney.

Bonevacia doesn’t half cop some rough stuff in Wellington’s matches, and was taken out once more in the 73rd minute of this encounter. McGlinchey’s resulting free-kick curled towards the far post, where Durante and Sigmund were both homing in on it. The latter was better-placed, and his captain’s flick took the ball away from him and past the post.

The home team were afforded a brief respite seconds later, and used it to launch a rare counter-attack – theirs had largely been a backs-to-the-wall job throughout the majority of the second half.

On this occasion, Juric rampaged clear, with Bridge in support. Instead of flying solo, the number nine squared the ball towards his fellow front-runner, but Riera had tracked their runs, and intercepted decisively before launching another Wellington raid.

No matter what the visitors tried, however, they couldn’t get the ball in the net. Indeed, they struggled to even get shots on target. Referee Lucas turned away penalty claims when Burns was felled by Cole in the 87th minute, while Covic smothered another Bonevacia effort two minutes later as Wellington piled on the pressure in search of an overdue equaliser.

Instead, they were dealt the ultimate sucker-punch in stoppage time. Caught on the counter-attack, this time substitute Nick Kalmar led the charge, and he deftly evaded two challenges before setting up fellow replacement Brendon Santalab for a tap-in which clinched an undeserved – but long overdue – 2-0 victory for Western Sydney, their first win of the campaign.

Match details

Crowd: 12,663

Western Sydney Wanderers FC:    Covic (gk); Tanaka (booked, 86), Hamill, Topor-Stanley, Golec (booked, 57); Spiranovic (booked, 83), Bridge, Poljak (booked, 47); Rukavytsya (Cole, 40), Juric (Santalab, 76), Haliti (Kalmar, 80)
Coach: Tony Popovic

Wellington Phoenix FC:    Moss (gk); Fenton (Boxall, 61), Sigmund, Durante, Muscat; Lia (Rodriguez, 46 (booked, 70), Riera, Bonevacia; Burns, McGlinchey, Krishna (Cunningham, 73 (booked, 90))
Coach: Ernie Merrick

Points and ratings

Match  6/10
Pitch  6/10
Referee     Stephen Lucas 4/10

3.  Burns
2.  Spiranovic
1.  Bonevacia