Match Report: Gusty Wellington Halts Gutsy Wanderers


A brave NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers FC team went down to Wellington Phoenix FC in atrociously windy conditions at Westpac Stadium today.

A brave NRMA Insurance Western Sydney Wanderers FC team went down to Wellington Phoenix FC in atrociously windy conditions at Westpac Stadium today.

The Wanderers can rightfully feel aggrieved with the result when a clear penalty was not given in the 16th minute and substitute striker Joey Gibbs missed a golden chance to equalise from point blank range in the 90th minute.

Despite being on the end of some puzzling decisions from the officials, Wellington dominated the match in large patches and clearly handled the terrible conditions better than the men from the golden west of Sydney.

Through the teamwork and the experience of New Zealand internationals like Jeremy Brockie, Tony Lochhead and Leo Bertos with the assistance of Manny Muscat and the return to form of Paul Ifill, the Phoenix made twice as many shots on goal throughout. Only a handful of them were serious chances.

The Wanderers were right in the game until the end and pressed forward with some exciting raids in the second half and were unlucky not to snare a draw.

Wellington got the best of the early exchanges with several attacking raids down the left wing through excellent interplay between Brockie and Belgian Stein Huysegems.

Classy forward Ifill was also troubling the Wanderers- defence with several sneaky runs in and around the box and he bobbed up regularly.

However it was a 16th minute Wanderers move down the right wing that should have brought the first major scoring opportunity in the form of a penalty kick. A cross by fullback Jerome Polenz clearly struck Phoenix defender Andrew Durante low on the arm as he turned his back inside the penalty box, sparking a united appeal from the Wanderers players.

To the amazement of everyone at Westpac Stadium referee Matthew Gillett played the resulting corner and did call Durante-s obvious foul. The corner was taken by midfielder Shinji Ono and eventually defused. The decision temporarily flustered the visitors and infuriated the bench and the handful of travelling Wanderers supporters.

As the wind swirled around the Cake Tin, the home team understandably handled it better. After several more raids down the left, Brockie sent an innocuous cross in the 21st minute that drifted into the wind across Ante Covic-s goal mouth.

After initially misjudging the flight in the wind, Covic slipped when trying to change direction and was left prone and red-faced as the ball floated in slow motion into the net on his near side. It was a moment that will haunt the experienced keeper and it proved the difference.

Covic pulled himself together quickly and he was needed to make some excellent saves before halftime. One was a punch clear of another swirling ball in heavy traffic in the goal mouth in the 27th minute and the other a tip over at full stretch in the 28th minute.

The Wanderers pressed hard in the final minutes of the first half but had trouble finding their final targets.

The first ten minutes of the second half saw the Wanderers on the attack with searching balls from corners or free kicks from Ono causing Wellington trouble. In the 56th minute he found a loose Nikolai Topor-Stanley at the far post who was only to be bamboozled by the wind.

Four minutes after replacing Dino Kresinger in the 58th minute, young striker Joey Gibbs was brought down heavily in the box by Ben Sigmund but the referee was again not interested.

Wellington dominated much of the next fifteen minutes and Brockie could have bagged a couple more goals with a header in 63rd minute and a fluffed shot in the 73rd. Muscat was finally given a yellow card for a professional foul in the 81st minute, the only card given all match.

Supporters will take heart that it was the Wanderers who finished stronger, pressing forward at every chance only to be confounded by the wind when they needed the balls to stick.

The best players for the Wanderers were defenders Polenz and Topor-Stanley, midfielders Mateo Poljak and Ono and forwards Mark Bridge, Taj Minniecon and Gibbs when he came on.

In an opportunity that summed up the Wanderers- day, Gibbs received the ball 4m out in the 90th minute only for his blistering shot to cannon into the back of a Wellington player point blank in front of goal.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Brockie 21-) def. Western Sydney Wanderers 0

Westpac Stadium Crowd: 5,405