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Sydney close gap with first half treble

Sydney’s strong away record this season continued with a 3-0 win over league leader Wellington Phoenix on Sunday.

Jacques Faty, Shane Smeltz, and an own goal to Manny Muscat went in in the first half as the Sky Blues cruised to a comfortable win to close the gap at the top of the table, which sees the top four sides within a point of each other.

A win would see Merrick’s men with breathing space at the top of the table, and a good start to two crucial encounters ahead of a season defining match against Melbourne Victory next season.

For now, with the focus on in-form Sydney, Merrick made four changes from the side that beat Brisbane Roar last week. With Nathan Burns on international duty, Joel Griffiths started up front; Michael McGlinchey, Louis Fenton, and Michael Boxall were also missing. Alex Rodriguez, Matthew Ridenton, and Manny Muscat replaced the three respectively.

Sydney was kept scoreless for the first time this year against Melbourne City in a 1-0 loss last week. In-form striker Marc Janko was on international duty for this game, and was replaced by former Wellington striker Shane Smeltz, while Alex Gersbach was replaced by Jacques Faty.

Joel Griffiths should have put Wellington the lead in the opening minute after a poor turnover in the Sydney defence, but the striker still had to stretch for the shot and Vedran Janjetovic was able to block the effort and save his side from early embarrassment.

Jacques Faty made the hosts pay eight minutes later, after he was the benefactor of a poor clearance from Andrew Durante. The corner was whipped in by Chris Naumoff and a standard clearance went amiss as the ball popped up off the Kiwi defender’s chest. Compatriot Shane Smeltz was on hand to header the ball down to Faty at the back post, who blasted the ball past Glen Moss.

Match Details Full match details »

Date/Time Sun Mar 29, 2015, 3:00 PMStadium Westpac StadiumAttendance 6,236Referee Peter Green

Wellington

Yellow Card21′ A.RieraYellow Card33′ A.DuranteSecond Yellow Card68′ A.Riera

Sydney

Goal9′ J.FatyGoal28′ S.SmeltzOwn Goal40′ M.MuscatYellow Card56′ N.PetkovicRed Card70′ S.SmeltzYellow Card86′ A.Brosque

Shane Smeltz doubled the visitors’ lead at the half-hour mark, though can be grateful to Matthew Ridenton for keeping him onside and unmarked in the box. Ridenton was slow to push up from right-back and consequently Wellington were punished as a pass from Naumoff left Smeltz with one of the easier finishes in his career.

With the confidence of a comfortable lead, Sydney pressed with intent to ice the game and a third goal came five minutes from the break. Moss punched at a delivery from the corner which came too close to the goal line but the effort barely cleared the six yard area forcing Albert Riera to header under pressure. The rushed clearance fell to Bernie Ibini who directed the ball into a sea of legs, and somehow into the back of the net.

Seb Ryall claimed the goal as he was the last player to get a decisive touch, though he appeared to know little about it until his teammates came to congratulate him. Replays later indicated that it was in fact an own goal off the boot of Manny Muscat.

Wellington could have pulled a goal back before half-time, but for the heroic defending of Naumoff. As the corner came in, the ball slipped through Janjetovic’s fingers and through to Riera for a free header. However, Naumoff was alert at the back post and was able to clear off the line.

A second yellow for Albert Riera meant Wellington Phoenix were down to ten men for the first time this season with a shade over 20 minutes to play, as things went from bad to worse for the hosts.

Within two minutes, the numerical disadvantage was negated as Shane Smeltz earned a straight red card. Peter Green showed no hesitation is giving the Kiwi his marching orders after he kicked out at Ben Sigmund after coming off second best in an aerial duel. While the dismissal meant little for the remainder of the game, it does mean Smeltz will miss an important match next week against Adelaide United.

The game maintained its high tempo in the second half – aided by the half-time substitution of the pacey Kwabenah Appiah – but ultimately the game was decided in the first 45 minutes.

 

Ultimate A-League ‘Player of the Year’ Votes
3 Christopher Naumoff (Sydney FC)
2 Bernie Ibini (Sydney FC)
1 Shane Smeltz (Sydney FC)
Youth Christopher Naumoff (Sydney FC)

About the author

avatarBorn and raised in Melbourne, Bill is a student journalist at Monash University and life-time fan of the round ball game.

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