Melbourne Heart 1 Wellington Phoenix 1
(Double click on photos below to enlarge them.)
In the match which could decide its finals ambitions, Melbourne Heart took on Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
A first half full of high quality, rapid, one-touch football was punctuated by one straightforward goal. Mate Dugandzic’s free kick skidded off the head of a Phoenix defender and Eli Babalj deflected it past Mark Paston in the 32nd minute.
But Heart should have made more of string of chances created and spurned in that first period.
In the fourth minute Babalj put a diving header wide from a Dugnandzic cross.
Four minutes later Dugandzic broke up a move from defence by the Phoenix and found Fred who set up Jonatan Germano but the midfielder skied the ball from close range.
Ben Sigmund had to rescue his team by clearing from the goal-line after Mark Paston was beaten by a shot Fred and Michael Marrone combined to set up Babalj who miscued right in front of the goal.
The Phoenix were not out of it and Manny Muscat headed over from the well-directed cross from Dani Sanchez.
Two minutes after Babalj’s goal Heart were lucky not to concede either a free kick on the 18-yard line or a penalty when Fred barged into the back of Paul Ifill.
When Andrew Durante chopped down Germano an altercation followed which involved several players.
Durante was booked for the original tackle and Ben Sigmund and Dugandzic for their part in the melee.
The match review panel may look at this incident.
Manny Muscat was involved and two minutes later he was booked, in Peter Green’s words, ‘for breaking up a promising attack.’
Some referees fancy themselves as journalists. We might need to speak to the union.
The first half finished with Heart worthy of its one-nil lead but like the fans wondering if they would rue the missed opportunities.
As expected the Phoenix lifted in the second half, closing down Heart moves and having more good openings of their own.
They also disrupted virtually every Heart free kick by standing over the ball and as they were not penalised by the referee so they continued to do so.
Marrone continued to threaten on the right and he found Babalj once again, only for the big striker to put the ball over with a first time shot.
That would have been an excellent goal had it gone in.
After a string of substitutions, the Phoenix got a spectacular equaliser in the 80th minute.
Andrew Durante knocked the ball forward and Chris Greenacre directed it back to Paul Ifill who thrashed it past Clint Bolton from 20 metres.
The goal deflated the home team and though substitute Alex Terra hit the side netting they could not find a goal to win the game in the last ten minutes.
John van’t Schip thought that the attempts on goal, decision making and the last pass were not good enough. He thought some of the players were selfish when in good positions.
On the other hand they were all working hard in training and were physically and mentally ready for the games ahead.
Ricky Herbert gave his squad full credit for the turn-round in the second half. He said that this was the quality Wellington had and the players had a talk on the pitch about what they needed to do get something from the game.
I asked if the cumulative experience of the squad was now paying off for Phoenix has one of the older and more experienced teams in the league. He said, We’ve been in the six now three years in a row. We have some extremely good players at the club. They have been very resilient through some very tough time as well, including the change of ownership. The more collective we are, and this group is, the better results have been for us.
Above all it was cracking game and though the home fans might have been a little down about the result, they could have little to quarrel about the quality of the entertainment and the effort of both sides.
Saturday, 10 March 2012
Melbourne Heart 1 (Eli Babalj 32’) Wellington Phoenix 1 (Paul Ifill 80’)
Venue: AAMI Park
Local kick-off: 5:30pm
Referee: Peter Green
Assistant referees: George Lakrinidis and Matthew Cream
Fourth official: Lucian Laverdure
1. Clint Bolton, 2. Michael Marrone, 4. Simon Colosimo, 5. Fred (3. Brendan Hamill 88’), 6. Matt Thompson (Craig Goodwin 61’), 10 Wayne Shroj, 13. Jonatan Germano (11. Alex Terra 81’), 16. Aziz Behich, 18. Curtis Good, 19. Eli Babalj, 23. Mate Dugandzic.
Unused substitutes: 30. Sebastian Mattei
Yellow cards: Mate Dugandzic 42’
Red cards: Nil.
1 Mark PASTON, 2 Manny MUSCAT, 3 Tony LOCHHEAD (14 Mirjan PAVLOVIC 64’), 6 Tim BROWN, 8 Paul IFILL, 9 Chris GREENACRE, 12 Nicky WARD (13 Nikolas TSATTALIO 72’), 18 Ben SIGMUND, 22 Andrew DURANTE, 17 Vince LIA, 21 Dani SANCHEZ 24 Alex SMITH 64’),
Unused substitutes: 20 Anthony WARNER
Yellow cards: Ben Sigmund 42’, Andrew Durante 42, Manny Muscat 44’
Red cards: Nil.