Photo: Daniel Allsopp returned to the Melbourne Victory after playing in America but was ineffective in tonight's match [PlessPix]
Wellington Phoenix 2-0 Melbourne Victory
Wellington Phoenix are in 7th place on the A-League ladder and just a point behind Melbourne Heart after they beat 5th-placed Melbourne Victory 2-0 at home at Westpac Stadium in Wellington tonight.
There was a Muscat on view, but it was Wellington’s Manny Muscat. Kevin Muscat had been rested by the Victory and left behind in Melbourne. His absence was a decisive factor in what was an insipid display by the visitors.
Melbourne reverted to a back-four and yet had no answer to the repeated attacks down the flanks by Wellington’s Marco Rojas, Vince Lia, Nick Ward and Tim Brown. The Victory defence was a shambles without the steadying influence of Muscat. His tackling ability, vision and guidance were sorely missed.
Wellington completely outplayed their opponents and it wasn’t until the 85th minute that goalkeeper Danny Vukovic was called into action. He dealt well with a Ricardinho shot, turning it wide for a corner.
Until then, it had been all Wellington and only fine goalkeeping by Michael Petkovic kept the visitors in the game.
Two goals in 5 minutes midway through the second half gave Wellington the three points, but they should have had many more.
Rojas was outstanding on the left wing and made the first goal and scored the second himself.
Melbourne were clutching at straws from the start. They brought on Daniel Allsopp with 10 minutes of the first half remaining in place of the unfortunate and embarrassed Marvin Angulo - unfortunate, because there were a number of players equally deserving of substitution. Tommy Pondeljak had a nightmare at right-back, Carlos Hernandez was nowhere to be seen, Matthew Kemp was being outplayed at left-back, and Ricardinho was finding it hard to get any time on the ball.
When he did get it, in the 13th minute, he made a good run down the right and cut the ball back for Hernandez, who mis-timed his shot and gave the ball straight to a grateful Vukovic.
Indeed, the Melbourne trio in attack were a poor advertisement for Brazilian and Central American football. How the Victory could have used Robbie Kruse, away with the Socceroos, and Archie Thompson, out injured.
The introduction of Allsopp, who has been playing in America, was a failure. He rarely saw the ball and was no threat to Wellington.
The dominance of Wellington in the first half was clear. They had 10 shots at goals compared to Victory’s one, while they managed to get the ball into the penalty area 39 times as compared to the Victory’s 9 times.
The second-half was probably even more one-sided and the Victory will go home licking their wounds after this battering. They were desperate in defence and somehow managed to block much of what Wellington threw at them. A lasting impression of the match is of Wellington carving open the visitors’ defence and of frantic defenders throwing themselves at the ball and blocking shots. There was little attempt to play out from the back as panic set in. How, oh how, they missed Kevin Muscat.
Just before Allsopp came on, Phoenix captain Andrew Durante should have scored but headed tamely at goal when completely unmarked.
In the 52nd minute, Ben Sigmund should have opened the scoring, but his point-blank shot was straight into the arms of Petkovic, who was probably the only Melbourne player able to hold his head high after this debacle.
Petkovic produced a marvellous save in the 58th minute from Lia’s header, after former Melbourne Victory player Ward had sent in a dangerous cross from the right.
In the 65th minute, Rojas was released into the box on the left and, after rounding Roddy Vargas, unleashed a ferocious shot that was somehow turned over the bar by Petkovic.
Two minute later, the breakthrough came. Rojas again made a run down the left and his perfect cross found Dylan Macallister at the far post. Petkovic saved Macallister’s header, but the ball rebounded to the Wellington striker, who tucked it inside the keeper’s left-hand post to give the home side a deserved lead.
Five minutes later. Macallister got inside the box and, shaping up to shoot, put Vargas out of the equation as the Melbourne defender went to ground in another effort to block a shot at goal. Macallister then simply tapped the ball square for Rojas to hammer home from 15 metres and make it 2-0.
Wellington Phoenix: Vukovic - Hearfield, Sigmund, Durante, Lochhead - Brown, Muscat, Lia (Bertos 82) - Ward, Macallister (Greenacre 84), Rojas (Daniel 87) (Sub not used: Crowther)
Goals: Macallister 67, Rojas 72
Melbourne Victory: Petkovic - Pondeljac, Leijer, Vargas, Kemp (Berger 55) - Celeski, Brebner, Broxham (Ferreira 73) - Hernandez, Ricardinho, Angulo (Allsopp35) (Sub not used: Mattei)
Ref: C Beath