Phoenix see off Victory in Auckland
Wellington recorded an important win in the context of their season on Saturday, defeating league-leaders Melbourne Victory 2-0 in front of 10,852 fans at Auckland’s QBE Stadium.
First-half goals to Roy Krishna and Roly Bonevacia were enough for the ‘Nix, with the Victory struggling to find a way back into the match despite a dominant second-half performance.
Ernie Merrick had Ben Sigmund back at his disposal for the first time in a few weeks, but despite that there was just the one change to the Phoenix’s starting side, with Vince Lia in for Justin Gulley.
For the visitors, captain Carl Valeri would miss the match through illness, meaning Kevin Muscat would field an unchanged starting eleven.
All the talk pre-match was on the surface at QBE Stadium, with grass sporadically missing all over the field and replaced by ‘painted dirt’.
Questions will be raised as to how the stadium passed inspection before kick-off, but also of the choice of playing strips for each side. Wellington were sporting a one-off silver strip for the match, with the Victory quizzically taking the field in their white away strip — making it difficult for fans to differentiate between the two sides.
The opening ten minutes reflected the poor quality of the field, with neither team able to control the ball successfully.
In fact, the first real action came in the 13th minute, when a poor tackle by Leigh Broxham drew the ire of the referee. With the referee trying to talk to Broxham, the ‘Nix players took a quick free kick and had the ball in the back of the net before being called back by Alan Milliner to re-take it.
Just as the Victory started to find their feet, the Phoenix took the lead. In the 18th minute, a fortunate deflection fell to Roy Krishna who, despite a poor first touch, somehow managed to squeeze the ball between Vukovic and the baseline, with Geria unable to clear the ball off the line after it took a large bobble as it approached him.
The two sides traded yellow cards in the 22nd and 23rd minutes, with Besart Berisha and Andrew Durante pulled up by Milliner for dangerous tackles.
Victory’s first real chance of the game came in the 34th minute, when Barbarouses broke in behind the Phoenix defence down the right, and crossed in for Ben Khalfallah. On the turn, the Tunisian under-hit his pass to the advancing Berisha, allowing a desperate Wellington to clear.
The Tunisian would hit a quality shot a few minutes later, but Glen Moss — playing in his 100th game for Wellington Phoenix — had it covered, and claimed the ball comfortably.
Vukovic saved the Victory from going down 2-0 on 36 minutes, when a through ball couldn’t be completely intercepted by Broxham, and Bonevacia picked up the scraps. Vukovic advanced, and somehow got a touch to tip Bonevacia’s effort wide for a corner.
The goalkeeper couldn’t repeat the dose just before the break, however, as the Phoenix made it 2-0.
A counter-attack through Krishna saw the Fijian beat two players in midfield and skip past Delpierre before laying off for McGlinchey on the left. McGlinchey returned the favour, finding Krishna near the penalty spot and, after some clever footwork, he put the ball into the path of Bonevacia who poked the ball over the line to make it 2-0.
After the break, the Victory began to press. Barbarouses had a quality chance in the 50th minute to pull one back, after Bozanic twisted and turned before crossing low across the area. The Kiwi international, though, got little contact on the ball, and it meekly dribbled to Moss.
Victory had the ball in the back of the net after 55 minutes, with Ben Khalfallah’s low shot taking a heavy bobble before beating Glen Moss. An offside flag, though, would save the Phoenix, with Berisha adjudged to have got a touch on the ball from an offside position before the ball found its way into the net.
The visitors continued to push for a way back into the game, and a 57th minute free kick almost provided it, but Gui Finkler’s near post effort was only able to find the side netting. The Brazilian would go close 5 minutes later, too, but his thumping shot was palmed away well by Moss.
Moss was at the ready again in the 62nd and 65th minutes to deny Bozanic, as the Victory put the foot down even more so than they had to start the half.
Somehow the ball didn’t go in for the Victory in the 68th minute, after Moss dropped a regulation ball into the path of Berisha. With a high bounce, though, Moss was able to apply enough pressure to deny the Albanian striker.
To make an odd match even more odd, the 74th minute would see an unusual occurrence, with the referee having to seek medical attention for a pulled hamstring. Despite trying to continue, the fourth official would have to come on in his place for the final quarter of an hour after Milliner was unable to complete his duties.
The game evened out after the referee substitution, with the Victory’s momentum seemingly halted by a reinvigorated Phoenix.
A free kick in the 83rd minute presented a good opportunity for Melbourne, but Ben Khalfallah’s far post header was directed wide of the post and could only find the side-netting. That lack of finishing quality was indicative of the Victory’s night in front of goal.
Despite the huff and puff from the visitors in the second half, the Phoenix defended stoutly and held on to the final whistle. The win sees the Phoenix rise one spot on the A-League table to 6th, while the Victory remain on top of the table pending the result in the Western Sydney vs Brisbane match.
|Ultimate A-League ‘Player of the Season’ Votes|
|3||Roly Bonevacia (Wellington Phoenix)|
|2||Roy Krishna (Wellington Phoenix)|
|1||Fahid Ben Khalfallah (Melbourne Victory)|