Five-Star Wellington pummel Perth

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 13 – 2017/2018 – Round 6
2:30pm, Sunday 12 November, 2017 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 5 (Kaludjerovic 74’ pen, 87’, Vidosic 13’, Paracki 34’, Finkler 52’)
Perth Glory FC 2 (Xavi Torres 9′, Shane Lowry 47′)


Wellington Phoenix scored their first win of the Hyundai A-League season in front of 6,105 fans at Westpac Stadium on 12 November, coming from behind to stun Perth Glory 5-2 in a highly entertaining encounter, the last act of a massive weekend for football in New Zealand’s capital.

Perth were first to fire a shot in anger, just three minutes having elapsed when Brandon Wilson’s twenty-yarder was smothered by Keegan Smith, who was very much a central figure when Perth threatened again four minutes later.

Marco Rossi’s awkward back-pass to his goalkeeper was the source of the problems which followed for Wellington, the biggest of them all being Smith’s use of his hand to control the ball while being challenged just inside his penalty area by Andy Keogh.

Referee Kurt Ams didn’t see it, but the Video Assistant Referee didn’t turn a blind eye to the incident, and at the next break in play the game was halted and the evidence examined by all present, prompting the referee to award Perth an indirect free-kick just inside the area.

Diego Castro – he had a fine game for the visitors – orchestrated proceedings, inviting Xavi Torres to rifle a fifteen-yarder into Smith’s top left-hand corner, the ‘keeper not even moving as the ball flew past him with unerring accuracy.

That rocked the botttom-of-the-table team, but it also stirred them into action, for within four minutes, Wellington were on level terms. Goran Paracki, upon intercepting a pass, powered forward before feeding Roy Krishna in the inside right channel.

At the third attempt, he managed to deliver a cross into the goalmouth, where Dario Vidosic, rising to meet it in salmon-like fashion, guided the ball across Liam Reddy and in by the far post – 1-1.

Six minutes later, Vidosic was in the thick of things again, and Wellington should have had a penalty as a result. Chris Harold tackled the goalscorer from behind, right in front of referee Ams, who inexplicably played on.

Perth responded with a couple of Castro-inspired attacks, the second of which saw him evade a challenge on the edge of the area, only to fire wide, seconds after Matthew Ridenton – his best game in a Wellington shirt – thwarted him with a covering run which cut out Keogh’s cross.

In the 24th minute, a poor clearance from Reddy was pounced on by Krishna, who swiftly fed the overlapping Ali Abbas. His cross was blocked, as was Andrija Kaludjerovic’s shot from the rebound.

This time, the ball rebounded back to the striker, who worked an opening with Guilherme Finkler and Vidosic to open up Perth’s defence, only to stumble at the vital moment. He still managed to get his shot away, but Reddy was little troubled.

A brief lull in play followed, with little of note attacking-wise occurring in the next ten minutes, save for a Smith denial of a Harold volley, an opening created by the combined efforts of Scott Neville, Wilson and Mitch Nichols.

Neville was to play a major role in the next attack of note, however, a 36th minute move which saw Wellington take the lead. The fullback played a frankly awful cross-field ball inside his defensive third, directing the sphere straight to Krishna. He swiftly steered it into the stride of Paracki, who picked out the bottom far corner of the net with a peach of a shot to give the home team a 2-1 lead.

Perth sought a swift riposte, with Castro’s delightfully weighted free-kick to the far post picking out Torres, whose header shaved the upright, the last chance of a half which ended prematurely for Dylan Fox, who hobbled off with a hamstring problem before the half-time whistle.

The visitors hit the ground running at the start of the second spell, forcing a corner from the kick-off. Castro and Keogh worked a one-two before the former fed Wilson, whose thirty yard piledriver was well saved by Smith.

Within seconds, however, Perth were on level terms. Again, Castro and Keogh were the architects, the latter’s cross picking out Shane Lowry at the near post, where he stooped to send a header bulleting off Smith into the roof of the net – 2-2.

Parity lasted all of five minutes. Kaludjerovic sent Krishna careering down the right, from where he whipped in a cross. It was cleared as far as Finkler, who from twelve yards sent a shot arrowing through the gathered throngs into the corner of the net to restore Wellington’s lead.

Three minutes later, they came desperately close to extending it. Shots from Paracki and Abbas were blocked before Paracki fed Alex Rufer. The substitute’s cross found Kaludjerovic flying in to meet it, but he was just unable to direct his header on target.

Back came Perth just after the hour mark, Harold and Nichols combining on the right for the benefit of Keogh, only for Rufer to head clear. Keogh then had a goal ruled out by the offside flag in the 64th minute, after a Castro shot had been blocked by Daniel Mullen’s desperate lunge.

Cue a Wellington response, with the in-full-flight figure of Krishna felled on the edge of the area by Lowry’s despairing tackle. Referee Ams ruled play on, much to the frustration of the Fijian, who featured again in the 71st minute as the hosts had another penalty claim waved away. Initially.

This time, Krishna and Rufer combined on the right, with the latter’s cross touched on by Finkler for Kaludjerovic. His goalbound volley struck Neville’s hand, but despite screams from Wellington players for a penalty, referee Ams wasn’t listening to their claims.

When his earpiece burst into life, however, Mr Ams found Wellington’s claims had validity, according to the Video Assistant Referee. And when the opportunity to present the evidence materialised seconds later, the official eventually concurred, and pointed to the spot from where Kaludjerovic thumped Wellington into a 4-2 lead.

Now the home team had their tails up. Rufer and Vidosic chanced their respective arms from twenty-five yards, but only the latter’s strike troubled Reddy, who plunged to smother a Krishna twenty-yarder eleven minutes from time, following Finkler’s neat play in midfield.

Another Keogh goal was denied by the offside flag soon after, while the striker directed a his header from a Castro corner straight at Smith in the 86th minute, to which the home team responded by going nap three minutes from time.

The driving runs of Abbas and substitute Adam Parkhouse had been giving Perth cause for concern in recent times, so when Finkler and Krishna combined with the newcomer, Parkhouse instantly evaded a challenge before floating a cross onto the head of Kaludjerovic, whose thumping header sealed an emphatic win for Wellington.

There was still time for some audacious play by Castro, as the game entered stoppage time. Receiving a pass from Nichols, he produced a lovely piece of skill to beat the covering defenders then chip Smith at his near post, the ball only just drifting past the far upright, instead of clipping it and going in.

Wellington, too, had one last chance before the final whistle, with Parkhouse and the overlapping Abbas combining on the left to clip a delightfully weighted cross to the far post, one which Lowry was forced to direct past the upright.

The home team had done enough, however, and when the final whistle sounded, began celebrating their first win of the season, and just their sixth win in all matches played in 2017.

Match details

Crowd: 6,105

Wellington Phoenix FC: Smith (gk); Mullen, Fox (Rufer +44′), Rossi, Abbas; Paracki, Ridenton, Krishna, Finkler, Vidosic (Parkhouse +81’); Kaludjerovic (Watson +89’)
Unused: Italiano (gk), Doyle

Yellow cards: Paracki 39′, Rufer 45′
Coach: Darije Kalezić

Perth Glory FC: Reddy (gk); Neville (Poscoliero +78’), Grant, Lowry, Torres; Andreu (Brimmer +70’), Wilson, Nichols, Diego Castro, Harold (Mallia +60’); Keogh
Unused: Feely (gk), Knowles

Yellow cards: Harold 16′, Wilson 37′
Coach: Kenny Lowe

Points and ratings

Referee:   Kurt Ams 5/10
Match 8/10
Pitch 8/10

Player points
3. Vidosic
2. Castro
1. Ridenton