Mother nature helps Wellington end Brisbane hoodoo

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 10 – 2014/2015 – Round 22

5pm, Sunday 22 March, 2015 – Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane

Brisbane Roar FC 1 (Kaluderovic 5′)

lost by referee declaration to

Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (McGlinchey 20′, Burns 45′)

Wellington Phoenix scored their first-ever Hyundai A-League win at Suncorp Stadium on March 22, but did so in bizarre circumstances as they came from behind to down Brisbane Roar 2-1 in front of 10,075 spectators to skip four points clear in the race for the Premiers’ Plate.

Bizarre because the match was abandoned after 73 minutes, the heavy rain which pounded a playing surface which had been completely under water twenty-four hours previously rendering the pitch unplayable.

League regulations state that if the match is abandoned before half-time, a replay must take place. But if called off after the interval, the scoreline at the time of abandonment is declared as the final result.

There wasn’t even a hint of the drama which was to unfold at the start of the match, which saw the league leaders tear into the reigning champions like men possessed. Just three minutes into the match, a cleared Roly Bonevacia corner was headed back into the penalty area by Albert Riera, and flicked on by Michael Boxall towards Michael McGlinchey, whose shot was blocked by James Donachie.

Three minutes later, Brisbane ’keeper Jamie Young made a fine close-range save to thwart Nathan Burns after Bonevacia had buccaneered past two Brisbane opponents straight from the kick-off.

For the league leaders had taken the lead in the fifth minute with their first attack. Dimitri Petratos released overlapping fullback Corey Brown down the left, his cross on the run to the near post being met by Andrija Kaluderovic, who steered the ball inside Glen Moss’ near post under pressure from Andrew Durante.

Wellington weren’t going to take this setback lying down, as evidenced by Burns’ effort. And in the ninth minute, McGlinchey and Bonevacia combined for Vince Lia to let fly, only for Luke DeVere to block his shot to safety on the edge of the penalty area.

End-to-end action ensued, Ben Sigmund blocking a Petratos shot following good work by Brandon Borrello down the right, before a Bonevacia free-kick picked out Durante, whose looping header hit the crossbar and had to be scrambled away by the home team.

Wellington deservedly levelled the scores in the twentieth minute. Burns found himself in possession by the corner flag with two opponents for company. He wormed his way past them both, then burst between two more in the penalty area before wrong-footing a fifth while setting up McGlinchey to steer home the equaliser – a goal which Burns’ brilliance richly merited.

Brisbane looked to regain the lead straight from the kick-off, only for Devante Clut to undo all his good creative work by blazing over from ten yards. Petratos then chanced his arm from twenty-five yards, forcing Moss, on the occasion of his 150th A-League appearance, to spring to his left to make the save.

Still the title-holders pressed, Clut starting and coming oh so close to finishing a move which also featured Kaluderovic and a cross from Jerome Polenz in the 26th minute, a raid which sparked a flurry of shots from orange-clad players, with Luke Brattan, Polenz and Clut all seeing their efforts blocked to safety over the course of the next six minutes.

Wellington survived the champions’ pressure, and came close to startling them in the 36th minute when Krishna, chasing a seemingly lost cause, nipped in between Young and Donachie on the edge of the penalty area and almost nicked the ball past the pair of them.

It gave the visitors fresh attacking impetus, and they swiftly regained the ascendancy, Young producing a superb save seconds later to tip Bonevacia’s twenty yarder over the bar after Krishna had broken clear on the right.

Six minutes later, Lia released the Fijian flyer down the right at pace. But Brown matched him stride for stride and produced a timely challenge to block Krishna’s shot to safety.

The resulting corner was cleared, but Wellington were soon back on attack, Riera, Bonevacia, Lia and McGlinchey combining to produce a superb interchange of passes culminating in the last-mentioned sweeping the ball across into the stride of Krishna.

He let rip a grass-cutting missile from the edge of the area which careered past Young, only to crash against the base of the post and rebound into the goalmouth. Who should be following in but Burns – 2-1, and a goal he richly deserved based solely on his contribution to Wellington’s equaliser.

Burns nearly bagged a second for himself before the interval, his rasping drive being deflected against the stanchion as Wellington sought to increase their advantage prior to the half-time whistle.

The teams emerged for the second half to discover that Mother Nature wanted in on the action. It doesn’t rain in Brisbane. It comes down in torrents, and Suncorp Stadium was right in the firing line on this occasion.

It didn’t take long for an already saturated pitch – the ground resembled a lake twenty-four hours earlier – to start developing slushy patches here, puddles there … in short, a lottery, not fit for a game of this calibre to be played upon.

Before referee Alan Milliner and his colleagues finally called time on proceedings, both teams endeavoured to make the most of the situation, continuing the lively momentum of the first spell.

Brattan’s twenty-five yard piledriver was parried to safety by Moss in the 49th minute, while Young was called into action two minutes later to turn a deflected twelve-yarder from Krishna round the post.

Burns was next to feature, on the counter-attack for Wellington, but he was double-teamed by Donachie and DeVere, who did enough to disrupt his progress and divert the danger.

Borrelo retorted in kind for Brisbane, his counter-attacking thrust foundering on another Moss save, this one in the 53rd minute as the players made light of the conditions to produce a helter-skelter, end-to-end affair.

Cue another Wellington raid, one from which they should have scored a third goal in the 57th minute, after Bonevacia flighted a gorgeously weighted free-kick into the goalmouth.

Quite how McGlinchey, racing in to meet it, managed to direct his shot against the far post from three yards, only he will know – an undoubted contender for “Miss of the Season”, make no mistake!

Five minutes later, the visitors were in again, Riera and Bonevacia combining for Krishna’s benefit. The striker made light of the conditions to skip past two opponents, only to drag his shot across the face of goal.

From the resulting goal-kick, the slushy conditions benefited Kaluderovic, who evaded a challenge from Sigmund and surged into the penalty area. As he shaped to shoot, Durante came slithering across to produce a splendidly timed tackle and keep his team in front on the scoreboard.

By now the conditions were clearly becoming unplayable, and after Brattan had battered a thirty yard free-kick towards the target – Moss smothered this effort, after spilling then regathering a cross moments earlier – referee Milliner was called across by his colleagues, and the decision was made to abandon the game in the interests of player safety with seventeen minutes remaining.

League regulations had been consulted by this stage, and the timing of the game’s abandonment meant the score, as it stood at that time, would be declared as the result of the match, meaning Wellington, 2-1 to the good when the final whistle blew, were now four points clear of all-comers, all their rivals having dropped points in the round’s other fixtures.

It also marked their first-ever win at Suncorp Stadium on the occasion of coach Ernie Merrick’s 200th A-League fixture, and extended to six matches their latest unbeaten sequence in this season’s competition, form which, with four of their remaining five games to take place at their Westpac Stadium home, leaves Wellington well placed to claim a maiden Premier’s Plate.

Incidentally, it was just as well the match was called off when it was, as by the scheduled conclusion, half the pitch was under water, such was the volume of rain descending from above.

Match details
Crowd:  10,075

Brisbane Roar FC:    Young (gk); Polenz, Donachie, DeVere, Brown; McKay, Brattan, Clut; Borrello, Kaluderovic, Petratos (Brady, 70)

Coach:  Frans Thijssen

Wellington Phoenix FC:      Moss (gk); Boxall, Sigmund, Durante, Fenton; Lia, Riera, Bonevacia; Burns, McGlinchey, Krishna (booked, 17) (Rodriguez, 65)

Coach: Ernie Merrick

Ratings and points

Match  7/10
Pitch  3/10

Referee – Alan Milliner 6/10

3.  Burns (WP)
2.  Bonevacia (WP)
1.  Clut (BR)