Sydney hand Wellington a three-goal hiding

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 10 – 2014/2015 – Round 23
3pm, Sunday 29 March, 2015 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 0
lost to
Sydney FC 3 (Faty 9′, Smeltz 9′, og. Muscat 40′)

Sydney FC handed Wellington Phoenix FC a 3-0 hiding at Westpac Stadium on Sunday 29 March, 2015 to maintain their unblemished away record in Hyundai A-League matches in the 2014-15 season.

Graham Arnold’s side have now recorded seven wins and four draws on the road this season, and they were good value for their latest three-point haul against a table-topping Wellington team which wasn’t allowed to dominate proceedings in its usual manner.

Yet things could have panned out rather differently for the home team had Joel Griffiths not been denied in the opening sixty seconds by Sydney goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic, the ‘keeper parrying the striker’s shot after Griffiths had been gifted possession by Nikola Petkovic on the edge of the penalty area.

Five minutes later, Roy Krishna was unable to make adequate contact with a through ball from Griffiths as Wellington pressed for an early opener. Said goal came in the ninth minute, but it was Sydney who were celebrating.

Christopher Naumoff’s corner wasn’t cleared by Wellington’s rearguard, who appeared at sixes and sevens as a result of the set-piece. Sydney defender Jacques Faty said  ‘thanks very much’, and buried the ball inside Glen Moss’ near post from eight yards.

Wellington were stunned by this setback, and their defensive demeanour didn’t improve during Sydney’s next set-piece, a fourteenth minute corner from Naumoff which required a desperate clearance by Ben Sigmund to prevent the home team from conceding a second goal early doors.

The visitors ramped up the pressure, Milos Dimitrijevic forcing a smothering save by Moss in the 21st minute before Alex Brosque volleyed over two minutes later as the score of Sydney fans in the 6,226-strong crowd rejoiced in their team’s dominance, their vocal jubilation highlighting the deafening silence of Wellington’s usually boisterous supporters.

After a Bernie Ibini-Isei raid culminated in Dimitrijevic heading over, a rare attack by the home team saw Janjetovic plunge to his right to keep out a Krishna strike in the 27th minute.

Two minutes later, Sydney increased their advantage to 2-0. Petkovic, who combined well with Brosque on the left flank in this match, worked his way down that flank before firing over a cross.

It was cleared to Brosque, whose shot ended up being a pass to Shane Smeltz, once of this parish. Wellington have benefited from his predatory instincts in the penalty area in the past, but on this occasion they were the victims of same, as Smeltz, kept onside by Matthew Ridenton, steered the ball beyond Moss to leave the home team with a mountain to climb.

Two minutes later, a splendid solo raid by Naumoff almost resulted in a third goal, this eventually arriving five minutes before half-time following yet another uncleared corner, this time delivered by Dimitrijevic.

Ibini-Isei volleyed the ball back into the goalmouth, where Sebastian Ryall was first to react, stabbing the ball home to leave Sydney on easy street – 3-0, game all but over as a contest.

Wellington’s creativity was being stifled by the terrific work ethic of Mickael Tavares and Dimitrijevic in midfield. Between them, they were denying the home team the time and space they usually enjoy to employ their passing game, as a result of which the home team engineered far fewer scoring opportunities than usual.

One, however, materialised in the shadows of the half-time whistle. Roly Bonevacia, who toiled tirelessly throughout for the cause, whipped in a lovely corner to the far post which Vince Lia met with a towering header. Unfortunately for the midfielder, he directed it straight at Naumoff, who cleared off the line to keep Sydney’s three-goal advantage intact come the half-time whistle.

After the interval, Wellington engineered the first opening when Albert Riera released half-time substitute – and debutant – Kwabena Appiah down the right. He fired in a great cross to the near post for Krishna to latch onto, but the covering figure of Ryall denied the Fijian the early goal the home team needed to get back into the contest.

Seconds later, Riera and Manny Muscat combined to open up Sydney’s defence, the fullback playing a pass through for Griffiths to exploit. Before he could, Janjetovic scampered off his line to save at his feet, prompting the striker to go to ground and claim a penalty.

Referee Peter Green wasn’t having a bar of this 52nd minute claim, but was to have quite an influence on proceedings within the next twenty minutes. By that time, Sydney had weathered Wellington’s storm, and gone close on a couple more occasions themselves.

Smeltz led the way on the hour, on receipt of a cross from substitute Robert Stambolziev, who himself went close via a solo raid seconds later. Brosque, too, went close soon afterwards, before Muscat’s vital interception prevented Ibini-Isei from swooping after Brosque’s low cross had zoomed beyond the incoming Smeltz in the 67th minute.

Any hopes Wellington harboured of getting back into the contest were dashed a minute later when referee Green controversially sent off Riera for what he deemed to be a second bookable offence, even though the Spaniard appeared to win the ball cleanly in the tackle.

Just after Wellington’s midfield anchor had made his way down the tunnel, Smeltz traced the same path following an off-the-ball clash with former team-mate Sigmund which referee Green saw and instantly reacted to by reaching for the red card.

The final twenty minutes became a ten-a-side affair, but there was little of note which occurred in the time remaining, save for a Sydney penalty claim in the 81st minute which was wrongly turned down by the official – Andrew Durante blocked Dimitrijevic’s free-kick with his elbow – and a bizarre substitution incident moments prior.

Rhyan Grant was primed to enter the fray fifteen minutes from time when an eagle-eyed attendant noted that he was wearing his training shirt and not his match jersey, which was still in the dressing room!

Cue a mad dash from one of the Sydney trainers to fetch said garment, which enabled a rather sheepish-looking substitute to enter the fray three minutes later than planned – guarantee this will end up on the end-of-season bloopers reel!

Sydney’s performance certainly won’t. They were richly deserving winners of this contest against the league leaders, who still top the table but now find their four pursuants within two points of them with four rounds remaining.

Match details

Crowd: 6,236

Wellington Phoenix FC :     Moss (gk); Ridenton (Appiah, 46), Sigmund, Durante (booked, 32), Muscat; Lia (Hicks, 71), Riera (booked, 20, 68 – sent-off), Rodriguez; Griffiths, Bonevacia, Krishna (Rufer, 76)

Coach: Ernie Merrick

Sydney FC:     Janjetovic (gk); Ryall, Faty, Petkovic (booked, 56), Jurman; Naumoff (Stambolziev, 58), Tavares, Dimitrijevic, Brosque (booked, 86) (Triantis, 89); Ibini-Isei (Grant, 78), Smeltz (sent-off, 70)

Coach: Graham Arnold

Points and ratings

Match  6/10
Pitch  8/10

Referee: Peter Green 4/10

3.  Tavares
2.  Dimitrijevic
1.  Brosque