Toothless Wellington No Match For City Or Seagulls

by Jeremy Ruane
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 14 – 2018/2019 – Round 4
7:50pm, Friday 9 November, 2018 – Melbourne Football Stadium

Melbourne City FC 2 (Ritchie de Laet 9, ‘Bruno Fornaroli 59’)
Wellington Phoenix FC 0


The AAMI Park seagulls at times gave Melbourne City more reason for concern than a toothless Wellington Phoenix during an uninspiring Hyundai A-League duel on 9 November, one comfortably won 2-0 by the home side in front of 6,410 fans.

City dominated possession throughout proceedings, and gained reward for this early pressure in the ninth minute, Ritchie de Laet rifling home a grass-cutting twenty-five yarder after Louis Fenton failed to cut out Scott Jamieson’s ball down the left, allowing Lachlan Wales to get in behind him and pull the ball back from the by-line.

Despite conceding, Wellington’s approach didn’t change – they were quite content to allow Melbourne the freedom of AAMI Park, where dodging seagulls was quickly becoming an occupational hazard!

There were hundreds of them, and they were everywhere! It was almost inevitable that one of them would be felled by the ball at some stage, but it wasn’t until the 84th minute that we had a “bird stopped play” moment, by which time the outcome of this match had long been confirmed.

City didn’t threaten again until the 24th minute, when Florin Berenguer-Bohrer got the better of Tom Doyle and angled a ball in behind Wellington’s defence for Bruno Fornaroli.

Andrew Durante’s sliding interception prevented the striker from getting on the end of the opportunity, albeit at the expense of a corner, which Berengeur-Bohrer delivered to the near post.

It was cleared as far as Kearyn Baccus, who absolutely battered a twenty-five yard missile which would have burst the net had it been on target! As it was, the ball flew just a yard over the bar, much to Wellington’s collective relief.

The visitors were awarded a rare sight of goal soon after following a foul, but Sarpreet Singh’s twenty-five yard effort was pawed away by Eugene Galekovic. The resulting corner saw the ‘keeper punch Dylan Fox rather than the ball, as Mitch Nichols’ teasing cross-shot arced narrowly past the far post. Remarkably, there were no penalty appeals by the Wellingtonians for an incident which amounted to violent conduct!

Taking heed of that let-off, Melbourne resumed their dominance of proceedings, and should have increased their advantage on the scoreboard at least once before half-time.

In the 37th minute, Berengeur-Bohrer delivered a corner beyond the far post which Harrison Delbridge headed down for de Laet, who unleashed a volley which Filip Kurto blocked well low to his right.

After getting right behind a twenty yard free-kick from Fornaroli, Wellington’s ‘keeper produced a terrific one-on-one save in the 41st minute. Baccus played the ball forward to Wales, whose flick sent Fornaroli scurrying through with just Kurto to beat. The ‘keeper made a fine save with his legs, but had to rely on Fox’s goal-line clearance to block Berengeur-Bohrer’s bid to ram home the rebound.

Melbourne’s dominance of proceedings continued unchallenged early in the second spell, with concerted pressure in the 56th minute culminating in Fornaroli’s mis-timed shot making life easy for Kurto.

When the Uruguayan let fly three minutes later, however, Wellington’s ‘keeper was beaten all ends up as City doubled their lead. Wales played the ball inside to Riley McGree, who worked a one-two with Fornaroli before finding himself in a cul de sac.

The midfielder duly returned the ball to the striker, who had given himself a yard and exploited it to perfection, curling a gem of a strike from the edge of the penalty area into the top far corner with exquisite precision to Fornaroli’s undisguised delight – his first goal of the season had, by his standards, been a long time coming.

The Video Assistant Referee came into play in the 67th minute, after referee Adam Fielding called a free-kick to Wellington just outside the penalty area after an arm was used to block a shot.

The footage showed that the incident had taken place inside the area, but that there was no deliberate movement of the arm to attempt to divert the ball’s path, i.e. a case of the ball striking the arm rather than the defender looking to gain an advantage.

This prompted referee Fielding to review his decision and declare he’d made a mistake, before restarting play with a drop ball. To say Wellington were livid is an understatement, but on this occasion, the VAR was spot on. And while we ridicule them for their incorrect interventions, we should give due praise when they get a call right, which was the case on this occasion.

That call seemed to spark a response in the Wellington players. Three minutes later, Kurto sent the ball downfield for David Williams to chase, hotly pursued by Bart Schenkeveld. Galekovic charged out of goal and clattered into his defender, who required treatment aplenty. Meanwhile, Williams ran out of real estate, so was unable to capitalise on the opening.

With City briefly down to ten men, the visitors looked to capitalise, and twelve minutes from time went desperately close to halving the deficit. Doyle’s cross from the left was cleared to debutant substitute Michal Kopcynski, who nearly marked his first touch for the team saw him lash an eighteen yarder narrowly over the bar.

Back came City, a super five-man move featuring Galekovic, de Laet, Baccus, Berengeuer-Bohrer and McGree invited the youngster to cut in off the right and let rip.

Kurto was at full stretch to turn it to safety, but was beaten all ends up by the final shot of the game in stoppage time. Fortunately for Wellington, Dario Vidosic’s twenty-five yard free-kick grazed the roof of the net to ensure a dominant 2-0 win for a City team largely untroubled by an insipid Wellington combination which has now gone three games since scoring, and rarely looked like doing so here.

Match details

Crowd: 6,410

Melbourne City FC: Galekovic (gk); De Laet, Delbridge (booked, 64), Schenkeveld, Jamieson; Atkinson (Vidosic, 51), Baccus (booked, 47), McGree; Berengeur-Bohrer, Fornaroli (Metcalfe, 86), Wales (Griffiths, 79)

Wellington Phoenix FC: Kurto (gk); Taylor, Durante (Burgess, 70), Fox; Fenton (booked, 62) Nichols (booked, 47), Mandi (Rufer, 82), Doyle; Fenton, Williams, Singh (booked, 8) (Kopzcynski, 70), Krishna

Points and ratings

Referee: Adam Fielding 4/10

Match 4/10
Pitch 7/10

Player points:
3. McGree (MC)
2. Wales (MC)
1. Kurto (WP)