Newcastle dealt nap hand by Wellington

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 12 – 2016/2017 – Round 24
7pm, Saturday 26 March, 2017 –  Westpac Stadium, Wellington NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 5
(C. Barbarouses (24), G. Finkler (36), M. Ridenton (49), “oggie” (66), R. Bonevacia (86))
Newcastle United Jets FC 0

Wellington Phoenix recorded the second biggest victory in their history on March 26, trouncing Newcastle Jets 5-0 at Westpac Stadium in front of the smallest crowd to watch the team perform at home or on the road in the Hyundai A-League in over four years.

Just 4,828 fans turned up to watch a Wellington side deprived of the services of six first-choice players by FIFA World Cup commitments, and Football Federation Australia’s complete lack of respect for FIFA’s international windows, effectively insisting that the A-League stops for nothing and no-one.

Those chosen simply got on with the job, and could have been a goal to the good just seventy seconds into the contest, had Hamish Watson shown even a modicum of desire to get on the end of Costa Barbarouses’ delightful cross, after he was released down the left by Adam Parkhouse.

Newcastle launched an instant counter-attack, culminating in a poor Alex Rodriguez clearance which invited Steven Ugarkovic to let fly from twenty yards. Lewis Italiano watched his shot fly harmlessly past his right-hand post.

Back came Wellington, Roly Bonevacia’s beautifully flighted pass inviting Barbarouses to dart in behind the Newcastle rearguard. He was only thwarted in the penalty area by the covering figure of Lachlan Jackson, who was to have a busy evening trying to contain the livewire All White, an intriguing omission from the current squad, who was playing as if he had a point or two to prove the point.

Seeing how vulnerable Newcastle’s rearguard had been to an angled ball in behind it, Marco Rossi looked to repeat the dose in the seventh minute, his raking pass from inside his own half finding an unlikely – but nonetheless willing – runner dashing through.

Guilherme Finkler’s movement isn’t his strong suit – he’s a playmaker with a penchant for set-pieces. On this occasion, however, his darting run saw him latch onto Rossi’s pass and set up Parkhouse for a shot, one which very much lacked accuracy, and that’s being polite!

Wellington pressed again three minutes later, with Barbarouses once more releasing Parkhouse on the left, but only after some fine individual work to engineer the opening. The fullback’s measured cross picked out Finkler, who controlled the ball neatly but mistimed the execution of his volley from ten yards.

After Jason Hoffman had seen his stinging twenty yarder turned round the post by Italiano, a vital headed clearance by Ryan Lowry prevented two opponents from getting on the end of an Andrew Hoole cross, after he had combined with Hoffman to open up Wellington’s defence.

The home team responded with a stunning counter-attack goal in the 24th minute. Italiano punched out a free-kick to Bonevacia, who swiftly brought Finkler into play. His delightfully weighted forty yard pass was pounced on by Barbarouses, who had Jackson turning this way and that before drilling the ball through the fullback’s legs and across the diving figure of Jack Duncan into the far side of the net by the post.

Stunned by the goal, Newcastle piled on the pressure in search of a swift equaliser, with Andrew Nabbout leading the charge. He combined with Morten Nordstrand in the 28th minute, the latter’s delightful back-heel inviting Ugarkovic to burst into the area.

His tame effort troubled Italiano little, while Nabbout, two minutes later, troubled him even less, his deflected shot slamming into the side-netting. From Hoole’s resulting corner, Aleksandr Kokko should have done far better with an unchallenged header.

Wellington responded to this surge in the opposition’s form by doubling their lead nine minutes before half-time. This time round, the scorer turned provider, Barbarouses picking out Finkler with a measured near post cross which the midfielder headed powerfully home via an upright from ten yards.

Before the interval, Italiano was little troubled in dealing with a Kokko shot on the turn after a driving run by Hoole, while Bonevacia, having released Barbarouses down the left, dashed forward for the return ball and, upon receiving it on the edge of the six-yard box, pirouetted perfectly, only to shoot straight at Duncan.

The game was up for Newcastle four minutes into the second half. Finkler’s corner picked out the head of Dylan Fox, who was unlucky not to crown his fine performance with this header.

The ball cannoned off the crossbar and was headed out by Nabbout, but only as far as half-time substitute Matthew Ridenton, who, with his first touch, volleyed Wellington into a 3-0 lead.

After Bonevacia had tested Duncan from twenty yards, Newcastle spurned two great chances to get back into the contest. Italiano saved superbly from both Nabbout and Hoole in a six-second spell in the 57th minute, while Hoole’s super run past three culminated in Nabbout finishing wildly when composure was called for.

If Newcastle weren’t already aware that this was not to be their day, events in the 66th minute confirmed the situation, Hoffman putting through his own net as he attempted to clear a Watson cross while facing his own goal.

The visitors effectively threw in the towel after this blow, with Ridenton, Rodriguez, Watson and Barbarouses combining in a stylish 72nd minute move which was deserving of a better fate than to see the cross cleared for a corner.

Following same seconds later, Bonevacia unleashed a twenty-yarder which fizzed past the post, taking a deflection en route. The resulting corner saw substitute Sarpreet Singh’s drive smothered at his near post by Duncan.

Four minutes from time, the ‘keeper was fishing the ball out of his net for a fifth time, substitute Logan Rogerson’s work down the right rewarded by Bonevacia’s low drive finding the back of the net from the edge of the area.

That made it 5-0, and Wellington came within a stride of notching a record-equalling sixth goal – their 6-0 thrashing of Gold Coast United in October 2009 remains their greatest win.

Bonevacia played in Rogerson down the right, and his inviting cross found Singh arriving at pace at the near post, just a stride away from turning the ball home to cap off a fine night’s work by a Wellington side whose 5-0 triumph keeps alive their faint hopes of making the play-offs, hopes which will certainly be tested by their final three opponents, all of whom occupy positions among the top four teams in the league.

Match details

Crowd:  4,828

Wellington Phoenix FC:         Italiano; Lowry (Ridenton, 46), Fox, Rossi, Parkhouse; Lia, Finkler (Singh, 65 (booked, 77)), Rodriguez; Barbarouses, Watson (Rogerson, 81), Bonevacia

Newcastle United Jets FC:  Duncan; Koutroumbis (Mullen, 46), Boogaard, Jackson, Hoffman; Brown (booked, 44) (Allwright, 71), Nordstrand, Ugarkovic; Hoole, Kokko (Ma, 50), Nabbout

Points and ratings

Referee:    Jonathan Barreiro 7/10 – I like this guy. Very un-obtrusive, and does his job well

Match  6/10
Pitch  8/10

Player points:
3.  Barbarouses
2.  Fox
1.  Lia