Tale of two Penalties helps Sydney sink Wellington

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 10 – 2015/2016 – Round 26
3pm, Sunday 26 April, 2015 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Boxhall 46′)
lost to
Sydney FC 2 (Ibini-Isei 14′, Smelz 42′)


It was a case of what might have been for Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on April 26, as they slumped to a 2-1 defeat at the hands of Sydney FC in the battle for a second-placed finish in the Hyundai A-League.

The victors were guaranteed to finish second in the competition, and advance to the second week of the play-offs. And that team could very well have been the home side, had Roly Bonevacia converted a tenth minute penalty awarded for a foul on Michael McGlinchey by Bernie Ibini-Isei.

Instead, the Dutchman steered his spot-kick wide of the target, and his profligacy was punished four minutes later by a superb solo goal from Ibini-Isei. Picked out on the left near half-way by Vedran Janjetovic’s throw, the striker rode the challenge of the pursuing Albert Riera before charging towards Wellington’s penalty area.

There, Louis Fenton looked to thwart his progress, but Ibini-Isei merely sidestepped him before battering a shot over debutant goalkeeper Lewis Italiano and into the top far corner of the net – a cracking goal which silenced the 13,248-strong crowd.

The visitors came close to doubling their lead two minutes later, Italiano needing two bites to keep out Ibini-Isei’s downward header after the striker had been picked out by Nikola Petkovic’s cross.

Wellington struggled to get back into the contest after this blow, and were dealt a second one just after the half-hour mark as Riera clipped Christopher Naumoff in the box. Shane Smeltz made no mistake from the spot, doubling Sydney’s lead despite Italiano getting his hand to the shot.

Naumoff went down again soon after, landing awkwardly after clashing with Michael Boxall in an off-the-ball incident. A gathering of the clans came about – hardly surprising given the high-stakes nature of the encounter, but the midfielder’s day was done, his injured arm precluding his further involvement in the contest.

On the stroke of half-time, Sydney threatened a third goal, with Naumoff’s replacement, Robert Stambolziev, dashing down the left before crossing to Smeltz, who guided the ball down into Milos Dimitrijevic’s stride.

The midfielder’s low drive was blocked by Andrew Durante, one of eight players to be booked by poorly performed referee Strebre Delovski in an encounter in which the official let a great deal of naughty stuff go unpunished.

Whatever Wellington had in their half-time tea should also be served to them before the game kicks off! They were a team transformed from the moment the second half began, and were back in the contest within a minute of the resumption.

Bonevacia’s short corner to Nathan Burns allowed the striker to turn his marker and pull the ball back from the byline into the heart of Sydney’s goalmouth. Arriving on cue was Boxall, who slammed home from six yards to give Wellington hope – 2-1.

Five minutes later, Ibini-Isei’s attempt to clear resulted in an airshot from the striker, much to the glee of Vince Lia, who took full advantage of the blunder to link with McGlinchey. His cross picked out Ben Sigmund, who couldn’t direct his header on target.

Five minutes later, Ibini-Isei came close to making amends for that blemish in his sound display. Smeltz led a counter-attack, and drew the defence before guiding a pass into the stride of his fellow front-man. Ibini-Isei’s first-time ten-yarder flashed narrowly over the bar.

Back came Wellington two minutes later. Boxall and McGlinchey combined to feed the overlapping figure of Manny Muscat, whose deft lay-off inside invited Burns to evade a challenge then attempt a chip of Janjetovic from twenty yards which the back-pedalling goalkeeper only just reached, tipping the ball onto the bar and to safety.

Sydney could have made the game safe in the 63rd minute. Rock-solid defender Jacques Faty sent Alex Brosque dashing through with just Italiano to beat, and Ibini-Isei in support alongside him.

Sigmund raced after the striker and attempted to haul him back. Had Brosque gone down, it was a sure-fire red card for the defender, although perhaps not, given the way referee Delovski was performing …

Instead, Brosque stayed on his feet and let fly, only for Italiano to block his effort at point-blank range – he proved himself a more than able deputy for the absent Glen Moss in this encounter.

Sixteen minutes from time, Riera and Boxall linked up with Burns, who played the ball wide to Fenton. His cross sought out Bonevacia, but Faty intercepted the delivery splendidly, and kept his cool in a challenging situation to retain possession for Sydney and play the ball out of defence when most would have opted to concede a corner.

Wellington piled on the pressure, and nine minutes from time had strong claims for a second penalty in the match after Faty’s muscular challenge saw substitute Roy Krishna go to ground in the act of shooting, Boxall and Bonevacia having combined to play in the Fijian.

Referee Delovski wasn’t remotely interested in the home team’s concerted pleas for a spot-kick, however, so Wellington regrouped and came again two minutes later. Alex Rodriguez, Bonevacia, Krishna and the overlapping Boxall teamed up to present Kenny Cunningham with a chance, but the substitute was denied the chance to level the scores by the alertness of Janjetovic.

The ‘keeper stood his ground and, with the aid of Rhyan Grant and Faty in the remaining minutes, snuffed out Wellington’s concerted bid for late goals to ensure Sydney would prevail 2-1 and claim second place in the competition, condemning the home team to fourth place and a sudden-death clash with Melbourne City at the same venue in seven days’ time.

Match details

Crowd: 13,248

Wellington Phoenix FC :     Italiano (gk); Boxall, Sigmund (booked, 90), Durante (booked, 29), Muscat (booked, 69); Fenton (Rodriguez, 79), Riera, Lia (Cunningham, 74 (booked, 90)); Burns (Krishna, 76), McGlinchey, Bonevacia

Coach: Ernie Merrick

Sydney FC:    Janjetovic (gk); Grant (booked, 86), Faty (booked, 66), Jurman, Petkovic; Naumoff (Stambolziev, 39), Dimitrijevic, Tavares (booked, 75); Ibini-Isei, Smeltz, Brosque (booked, 45) (Calver, 90)

Coach: Graham Arnold

Points and ratings

Referee     Srebre Delovski 3/10
Match  6/10
Pitch  8/10

3.  Faty (SFC)
2.  Boxall (WP)
1.  Ibini-Isei (SFC)