VAR Ruling Influences “Long Distance Derby” Result

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 14 – 2018/2018 – Round 6
7pm, Saturday 2 December, 2018 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (Roy Krishna 44′)
drew with
Perth Glory FC 1 (Diego Castro 82′)


The dark stain on the Hyundai A-League which is VAR cast its ever-omnipotent shadow on Westpac Stadium during the clash between Wellington Phoenix and Perth Glory on December 2, the wrongful dismissal of a defender preventing the home team from recording a win over the league leaders.

Wellington instead had to settle for a 1-1 draw, but only after substitute Ryan Lowry, just minutes after he had entered the fray, was deemed by VAR Nick Waldron to have committed a studs-up tackle on Chris Ikonomidis, when the reality was the defender’s momentum from executing a clearance took him into the Perth player.

Needless to say, Wellington’s players and coach, Mark Rudan, were livid with the decision, and it was telling that Football Federation Australia took no action re any post-match comments emanating from officials of the NZ-based club – they knew this was never a red card offence, and that inexperienced referee Adam Kersey should have kept his cards in his pocket.

The visitors began the match brightly, as one would expect of a table-topping team, but it was Wellington who fired the first shot in anger, Alex Rufer lashing a twenty-yarder over the bar in the eighth minute.

Two minutes later, the majority of the 4,829 fans present should have been acclaiming the opening goal, after Louis Fenton’s challenge blocked a Dino Djulbic clearance and left Nathan Burns in on goal with just Liam Reddy to beat. But his was the woeful finish of a striker sorely lacking in confidence, Burns dragging his shot well wide of the mark.

Five minutes later, an almighty collision between Andy Keogh and Filip Kurto marked the end of his evening’s action for the Wellington goalkeeper, who eventually left the park on a medical buggy nearly ten minutes after his head and Keogh’s hip came together in this one-on-one situation.

Unperturbed by the loss of their number one – Oliver Sail took over twixt the sticks, Wellington kept on taking the game to Perth, with Fenton landing a cross-shot on the roof of the net before a thirty yard grasscutter from Mandi Sosa brought the best out of Liam Reddy in the 33rd minute.

Five minutes before half-time, Roy Krishna and Sarpreet Singh combined to play in Burns through the inside right channel. His angled shot was parried by Burns, with Djulbic mopping up as Perth continued to weather Wellington’s pressure, the home team’s tactics severely restricting the visitors’ chances to impose themselves on proceedings.

Two minutes later, Singh’s through ball for Fenton saw the wingback hauled back by Jason Davidson in the penalty area – as clearcut a penalty as you could ever wish to see, but not in the eyes of referee Kersey or VAR operator Waldron on this occasion. (Funny, that, given what was to follow later).

Wellington weren’t to be denied, however, and in the 44th minute took the lead. Burns’ sharp turn and through ball was diverted by Djulbic straight into the stride of Krishna, who buried his shot from the edge of the area to become Wellington’s all-time leading goalscorer, eclipsing the record of 33 goals long held by Paul Ifill.

And it must be said it was a deserved goal, too, one which the home team wasted little time in attempting to build upon. Singh fired twenty-five yarders narrowly past the post either side of the half-time whistle, while Burns lashed a fifteen-yarder just over the bar before setting up Krishna for an acute-angled effort which Reddy denied at his near post in the 54th minute.

After this, Perth changed their tactics and came more into the match, particularly after introducing the mercurial Diego Castro to the fray in the 65th minute. Sail quickly recovered from a collision with Djulbic before Steven Taylor’s vital diving headed clearance prevented Keogh from levelling the scores in the 72nd minute.

Then came the incident which changed the course of the contest, with Wellington’s ten men only able to keep Perth at bay for another seven minutes after Lowry’s dismissal fifteen minutes from time.

The equaliser owed much to the enterprise of Ikonomidis, who somehow got between two defenders by the corner flag before dashing along the by-line then pulling the ball back into the stride of Castro, who made no mistake from six yards.

There was only one team in it from here on in, and Perth piled on the pressure in search of a winner. But Wellington’s players put in a terrific shift to keep the league leaders at bay, although there were hearts in mouths when Davidson sent one soaring over the bar from eight yards when Neil Kilkenny picked him out from a corner two minutes from time.

1-1 it finished, Perth deserving to drop points to a Wellington side which outplayed them until Castro’s introduction to the fray gave the visitors some much-needed momentum. The home team will look back on this as two points dropped – and we all know why!

Match details

Crowd: 4,829

Wellington Phoenix FC: Kurto (gk)(Sail (gk) 19′); Taylor (booked, 45), Kopzcynski, Durante (booked, 60); Fenton, Rufer (R. Lowry, 71 (sent off, 75)), Sosa (booked, 85), Cacace (booked, 28); Burns (Way, 78), Krishna (booked, 90), Singh

Coach: Mark Rudan

Perth Glory FC: Reddy (gk); Franjic, Mrcela, Djulbic (Santalab, 79), S. Lowry (booked, 83); Ikonomidis (booked, 45), Wilson (Brimmer, 57), Kilkenny, Davidson; Keogh, Chianese (Castro, 65)

Coach: Tony Popovic

Points and ratings

Referee: Adam Kersey 3/10

Match: 6/10
Pitch: 8/10

Player points:
3. Castro – changed the game, with the assistance of VAR
2. Krishna – who received his NZ citizenship today, incidentally
1. Singh