Wellington stun leaders with come-from-behind win

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

A-League Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 3
7:15pm, Saturday 24 October, 2015 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 3 (Michel McGlinchey 35′, Roy Krishna 49′, Blake Powell 78′)
Brisbane Roar FC 2 (Dimi Petratos 26′, Jade North 60′)


Brisbane Roar’s perfect start to the Hyundai A-League went west at Westpac Stadium on October 24, as Wellington Phoenix came from behind to score a 3-2 win over the table-toppers in a terrific advertisement for the competition.

Two teams intent on playing football first and foremost – and not spoiling the game via a plethora of free-kicks, as so many of their A-League rivals are wont to do – produced a compelling affair right from the outset, with defences on top early, despite the probing for openings by both attacks.

Brisbane first threatened in the third minute, stand-in Wellington captain Ben Sigmund being forced to execute a diving headed clearance to deny Jamie MacLaren after Thomas Broich and Dimitri Petratos combined to release the overlapping figure of Jerome Polenz down the right.

Wellington had strong penalty claims turned away by referee Jarred Gillett nine minutes later, when Roy Krishna was bundled over in the box as he looked to get on the end of a cross from the well-performed Thomas Doyle.

When Krishna next featured, he was the beneficiary of Michael McGlinchey’s industry, the attacking midfielder having broken up a Brisbane move before surging forward and finding the Fijian with a precise pass. Krishna slipped as he let fly from an acute angle, slicing his shot wide as a result.

The visitors opened the scoring in the 26th minute. Broich led the charge, eventually feeding Petratos, who steamed up in support then promptly stepped inside Manny Muscat before curling a gem of a fifteen yarder around the diving figure of Glen Moss and into the net right by the far post – an exquisitely executed strike.

Within seconds, Brisbane could have had a second, Broich and midfield general Corona combining to present Brandon Borrello with a chance which was deflected through to Moss, who dived to his right to save.

Jeffrey Sarpong had enjoyed a sound opening half-hour without getting much change from Brisbane’s defence, but a Vince Lia pass gave him the chance to run at the visitors’ rearguard. He evaded two opponents before letting fly from the edge of the penalty area, only to be thwarted by Jamie Young’s solid parried save.

Four minutes later, Sarpong ranged down the right before slipping the ball inside to Roly Bonevacia. He wriggled between two challenges inside the area before Krishna stepped in to shoot, only to look on in dismay as Young, who was racing off his line, produced a superb blocking save to keep the visitors in front.

It was a temporary reprieve, however, for Wellington equalised ten minutes from time with one of the best free-kick goals you’ll see in the A-League this season. Referee Gillett required McGlinchey to re-take the kick, as his initial delivery had taken place prior to the official blowing his whistle.

How McGlinchey made the most of his second chance – his thirty yarder arced over the wall and flew beyond the flailing fingertips of Young before landing smack in the corner of the net – 1-1, and how!

The 6,103 fans present – the stadium was barely one-sixth full – roared their delight, and urged their charges on to greater heights. Sarpong heeded the call, working his way down the right in the 37th minute before delivering a deep cross which McGlinchey headed down towards Krishna. Jade North stepped in first – danger over.

Five minutes later, Brisbane produced one of their trademark flowing moves, but unusually, Broich was not even involved. Instead, Matt McKay, Corona and Polenz combined to play in MacLaren, whose first-time shot on the turn arrowed between Muscat and the diving figure of Moss before flashing a foot past the far post.

Wellington responded through Bonevacia, whose rasping twenty-five yarder was well smothered by Young. He instantly sparked a counter-attack which brought the first half to a close, Corona and Broich combining to release Borrello down the right, from where his cross was turned narrowly past his own post by the out-of-sorts Louis Fenton – arguably the worst player on the park over the course of the ninety minutes.

It took just four minutes of the second spell for the deadlock to be broken, and this time it was via a Wellington counter-attack. North failed to head a lofted ball forward to safety, and Krishna was onto the opening in a flash, before slipping it into the stride of Sarpong.

The new recruit – in what was easily the best game of his fledgling Wellington career to date – drew two defenders towards before unselfishly slipping a return pass to Krishna, who battered the ball home from ten yards to the delight of the local faithful.

Immediately, Brisbane piled on the pressure in search of an equaliser. Doyle stepped in to deny MacLaren after McKay and Petratos had combined on the left, while the visitors’ number nine blazed wide of the mark after McKay’s penetrating through ball had rewarded MacLaren’s diagonal run through Wellington’s defence.

In the 58th minute, Moss made a superb save low to his left to keep out a shot from Petratos which bounced in front of him, the striker having dashed across the top of the box past four defenders in order to engineer space for the shot.

Brisbane’s pressure eventually told on the hour. Corona’s corner wasn’t cleared, and North’s volley from eight yards caught out the unsighted figure of Moss, the ‘keeper unable to grasp the ball as it found its way past him into the net behind – 2-2.

Now it was Wellington’s turn to press, and they did so straight from the kick-off through Bonevacia and Krishna. Brisbane scrambled clear on this occasion, the ball finding its way to Petratos, whose pass to McKay invited the visitors’ skipper to pick out MacLaren on the far post. The striker headed the inviting cross wide of the target.

It was time to call on the re-enforcements, and Wellington coach Ernie Merrick made a couple of telling changes. Sarpong ran his socks off – he is still on the comeback trail from injury – so the introduction of Alex Rodriguez gave the home team added attacking vitality.

Before he got up to speed, however, Moss had been called upon to produce another save, this time from Corona, whose twenty-five yarder resulted from Broich releasing MacLaren down the left.

Following this effort, further changes were made, and again, Merrick’s substitution was telling. Blake Powell’s entry to the fray – in place of Bonevacia – was to impact upon the scoreboard just four minutes later, as Wellington took the lead once more.

Rodriguez latched onto the ball in midfield, and lived on it before supplying a pass into the stride of McGlinchey, as he approached the left-hand edge of the penalty area. Steaming past him on the overlap was Doyle, into whose stride the ball was duly rolled.

The fullback promptly fizzed a low cross into the goalmouth, where Powell was Johnny-on-the-spot, steering the ball home from four yards to put Wellington 3-2 in front with twelve minutes to go.

Back came Brisbane, but MacLaren was again denied, this time at close quarters by Fenton after Broich and McKay had once more prised open Wellington’s rearguard, in front of which Albert Riera had produced a rock-solid display.

The home team responded through their substitutes, with Rodriguez and Powell working an opening on the right which culminated in the latter going close at the near post seven minutes from time.

There was still time aplenty for Brisbane to snatch at least a share of the spoils, but Wellington were not to be denied a come-from-behind victory over the league leaders, for whom this was a rare defeat at the hands of the lone A-League club whose future has yet to be confirmed by Football Australia.

Negotiations regarding the length of the extension of Wellington’s A-League licence are ongoing, but the Yellow Fever’s “Ten More Years” banner, unveiled prior to kick-off, made known their minimum expectation of the competition’s governing body, whose willingness to unhesitatingly extend, by twenty years, the licences of the other A-League franchises, despite the economic uncertainty in which many of them operate, hasn’t gone unnoticed by fans of a club whose operations are more stable than most.

Match details
Crowd: 6,103

Wellington Phoenix FC:     Moss (gk); Fenton, Sigmund, Muscat, Doyle (booked, 83); Lia, Bonevacia (Powell, 74), Riera (booked, 76); Sarpong (Rodriguez, 67), Krishna (Appiah, 88), McGlinchey

Brisbane Roar FC:    Young (gk); Polenz (booked, 7) (Brown, 74), North, Bowles, Hingert; Petratos (Lustica, 71), Corona, McKay; Borrello (Clut, 88), MacLaren, Broich

Ratings and points

Referee:    Jarred Gillett  7/10 – didn’t have too much to do, in all honesty, a reflection of the spirit in which the game was played. He entered into it, to his credit.

Match  8/10
Pitch  8/10

3. Thomas Doyle (WP)
2. Matt McKay (BR)
1. Jeffrey Sarpong (WP)