Wellington ‘Keeper’s capers sink City

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

Hyundai A-League – Season 14 – 2018/2019 – Round 16
7:35pm, Saturday 26th January, 2019 – Westpac Stadium, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Phoenix FC 1 (David Williams 5′)
Melbourne City FC 0


An outstanding display of goalkeeping by Wellington Phoenix custodian Filip Kurto earned his side a 1-0 win over Melbourne City in front of 8,554 fans at Westpac Stadium on 26 January, as the home team bounced back to winning ways in the Hyundai A-League.

The very first attack of the game produced its decisive moment, albeit a controversial one, with City claiming Roy Krishna was offside when he set off on a run which Mandi Sosa spotted in the fourth minute of play, and duly delivered a raking pass through the inside left channel into the Fijian’s stride.

Krishna promptly held off a defender before steering the ball wide to Liberato Cacace, whose cross was deflected into the stride of David Williams. Without hesitation, the former City player – no one has made more appearances for the club – condemned them to defeat with a stunning hip-turn volley into the top far corner.

The goal stunned Melbourne, and knocked them off balance for the remainder of the half, by which time Wellington should have been out of sight. In the eleventh minute, Louis Fenton and Krishna combined to release Cacace down the left, from where he delivered a cross to the far post which deceived Eugene Galekovic.

No one in yellow-and-black was on hand to head home this invitation to score, however, nor did they take advantage three minutes later when Sarpreet Singh sent Krishna to the by-line. His cross deflected off a retreating defender, but Galekovic was first to react as Singh and Cacace raced in to try to take advantage of the opening.

Williams spurned a glorious chance to double the lead in the 26th minute, blazing over after Cacace had set him up with a splendid cross. Two minutes later, a Singh free-kick found Tom Doyle in around the back of City’s defence, but Galekovic pawed the defender’s header round the far post.

City’s ‘keeper then produced a fine save to keep out an Alex Rufer thunderbolt, after Cacace’s teasing cross for Krishna had been partially headed clear by Bart Schenkeveld nine minutes before half-time.

Further Wellington pressure followed, with Andrew Durante breaking out of defence before sending Williams darting through the inside left channel, where he evaded a challenge before setting up Krishna, whose shot was blocked by the outstanding Harrison Delbridge – his sterling defensive work for City kept them in it.

It was his clearance which spared Galekovic’s blushes on the stroke of half-time, after Rufer, Singh and Williams had combined to send Fenton scooting to the by-line, from where he managed to squeeze the ball past City’s goalkeeper, who was expecting the ball to go over the goal line before the flying figure of Fenton could catch up with it.

Galekovic made amends for this blemish by saving Krishna’s final shot of the half, a twenty yarder which came about after Cacace had robbed Nathaniel Atkinson on half-way and slipped a pass inside to Williams, whose dummy allowed Krishna to take over and beat a defender before letting fly.

Melbourne didn’t fire a shot in anger throughout the first half, and their first bit to do so in the second spell saw Riley McGree outpacing Fenton as he pursued a clearance on the left. Durante got across to cover this effort, but was unable to prevent Ritchie de Laet from rattling the side-netting in the 58th minute, on receipt of Rostyn Griffiths’ pass.

The latter was becoming more of a factor in the game by this stage, and in the 61st minute he worked a splendid one-two with Scott Jamieson on the left before whipping in a cross to the near post which rebounded to safety off the unfortunate Delbridge.

Until this point in the match, Kurto had barely touched the ball – he could just as easily have spent the first half up amongst Wellington’s Yellow Fever fans, so ineffective were City as an attacking force. But now they were starting to get some momentum in their play, and it was time for Wellington’s custodian to earn his keep.

Florin Berenguer-Bohrer led Melbourne’s 62nd minute raid, working a neat one-two with de Laet before picking out Lachlan Wales with a low cross to the far post. The young striker unleashed a first-time strike which Kurto blocked well.

Four minutes later, he smothered a twenty yard shot on the turn from McGree, before denying Kearyn Baccus with a blinding save sixteen minutes from time, Kurto having been partially unsighted as the work of Wales, after weaving his way in from the left before inviting his team-mate to let fly from the edge of the penalty area.

Kurto simply would not be beaten, and two saves in twenty seconds in the 83rd minute broke Melbourne’s self-belief. The first followed a quickly taken free-kick which substitute Moudi Najjar latched onto.

Kurto made himself big and was in mid-air when Najjar’s volley struck the ‘keeper square amidships. But Kurto beat a hasty retreat back to his goal, as the ball was still in play, and at the feet of Jamieson, whose shot deflected off Durante, forcing the diving goalkeeper to adjust his position and paw the ball away from above his head.

Inspired by their goalkeeper’s exploits, Wellington looked to finish with a flourish, with Krishna and Singh mounting the team’s first attack of the half four minutes from time.

Melbourne’s defenders got back in numbers to thwart their kamikaze raid, but within minutes Krishna and substitute Cillian Sheridan had combined to present Singh with the chance to evade a couple of defenders and sting the gloves of Galekovic, who had been unoccupied in this half as Kurto had in the first.

He was soon in action again, racing out of his goal in a bid to halt Krishna’s rampage downfield, the Fijian having been released by Durante’s pass following a super tackle in the centre circle. Krishna’s pace took him past Galekovic, but into the path of the retreating figure of Delbridge, who couldn’t avoid bundling the striker over.

Wellington’s fans howled for a penalty, but referee Jonathan Barreiro – an interesting display of officiating, to be polite – quite rightly allowed play to continue, the ball rolling out for a goal kick.

Galekovic duly launched the ball downfield, and as they piled on the pressure in search of a dramatic late equaliser, City uncorked a gem of a move featuring Atkinson and Griffiths on the right.

His cross was headed out to McGree, who unleashed a thunderous twenty-yarder. Kurto had no time to react, but somehow did, producing another stunning reflex save to keep the ball out.

Baccus was following in, however, but blasted the rebound past the far post … and with that went Melbourne’s last hope of a share of the spoils, something they would surely have earned but for the outstanding display of goalkeeping produced inside the final half-hour of the match by Kurto – Wellington’s true match-winner, Williams’ goal notwithstanding.

Match details

Crowd: 8,554

Wellington Phoenix FC: Kurto (gk); Taylor (booked, 60), Durante (booked, 90), Doyle; Fenton, Rufer, Sosa (Kopczynski, 88), Cacace; Krishna, Singh (Burgess, 90), Williams (Sheridan, 67)
Coach: Mark Rudan

Melbourne City FC: Galekovic (gk); Atkinson, Schenkeveld (booked, 38), Delbridge, Jamieson; Berenguer-Bohrer (Najjar, 67), Griffiths (booked, 51), Baccus, McGree; Wales (booked, 17), De Laet (Najjarine, 77) NB Assistant coach Patrick Kisnorbo (booked, 79)
Coach: Warren Joyce

Points and ratings

Referee Jonathan Barreiro 4/10

Match 6/10
Pitch 8/10

Player points
3. Kurto
2. Delbridge
1. Cacace