March 31, 2012

The Wellington Pheonix move onto the next round of the Finals series for the 2011/12 season

It was quite unusual going to the cake tin for a Friday night kick off at 8.00 pm when most of our matches during the year had been late afternoon kick offs over the weekend.  But then, we were in the playoff series for the third season in a row; not bad for a team that was considered to be the cellar dwellers at the start of the season after all the upheavals over ownership and a limited playing roster etc.   The game was potentially Tim Brown’s last home match having announced during the week that he was off to the UK to study, so he came out leading the team as captain for the day.

The first half was end to end stuff with Sydney FC having slightly better chances than the Phoenix but neither team managed to convert any of their limited opportunities before goal so the two teams went into the shed at half time nil all.

The second half started a bit the same with end to end action.  The Phoenix gradually got on top, and scored twice through Tim Brown, a goal mouth scramble, then Ben Sigmund with one of his customary headers from a corner.  Then they went to sleep and conceded what this reviewer would consider two soft goals.  So with less than ten minutes to go, it was two all and the ten thousand plus crowd was getting nervous and even more vocal!

During the match, I had a series of exchanges with the brother-in-law in Brisbane who was watching the game in his living room after a hard day at the office.  I suggested to him that once again the Phoenix were not getting the support of the referee.  I, and a number of the crowd, thought he and his officials missed a number of offences committed by the Sydney FC players.  But the brother-in-law didn’t think that was the case.  Anyway, with only four minutes of ordinary time to go, Paul Ifill took on two defenders and weaved his way in to the box and was brought down on the penalty spot.  This had happened a couple of times in previous matches and nothing happened other than Paul getting booked for diving!

But on this occasion, the ref was up with the play and awarded a penalty which Ifill duly converted making the score three: two to the Phoenix.  The players and crowd had to endure four minutes of time added on but in the end the Phoenix were triumphant and now await the outcome of the Perth Glory: Melbourne Heart match to be played on Sunday.

The Phoenix players worked together as a team as is normally the case.  One player who stood out for me other than the usual suspects, Ifill, Sigmund, Muscat and Durante etc was Vince Lia who I thought had his best game since returning from injury a couple of weeks ago.  He popped up in all sorts of places to put in the saving clearance on a number of occasions.

Overall another good night at the football.  Let’s hope the Melbourne Heart beat the Perth Glory and we have another home game next week otherwise it’s off to Perth next weekend.

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