Roar, Phoenix split the points in windy Wellington

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Huysegems 16’)

Brisbane Roar 1 (Berisha 39’)

Referee: Adam Kersey
Crowd: 9,134 at Westpac Stadium, Wellington

Brisbane Roar: Theo, Hingert, Smith, Jurman, Stefanutto, Paartalu, Murdocca, Nichols, Halloran, Broich, Berisha.
Substitutions:  Henrique for Halloran (77’), Takahashi for Hingert (91’).
Un-used substitutes: Acton, Fitzgerald.
Yellow Cards: Stefanutto (18’)

Red Cards: Nil

Wellington Phoenix: Paston, Bertos, Boxall, Sigmund, Lochhead, Ifill, Muscat, Smith, Fenton, Brockie, Huysegems.
Substitutions: Totori for Huysegems (61’), Boyd for Fenton (71’), Lia for Smith (82’)
Un-Used substitutes: Moss
Yellow Cards: Fenton (63’)
Red Cards: Nil

Brisbane today played their 3rd match of the 2012-13 season across the Tasman against Wellington and they’ll be returning to Australia with a point following the 1-1 draw. The conditions didn’t favour good football due to the strong winds around the New Zealand capital today which had an effect on both clubs tactics. All in all Wellington is notoriously a tough place of opposition sides to go and to come home with a point is a good result. Plenty of sides will return home with less.

Wellington took the lead early on after a sustained spell of dominance through a nice movement featuring their 3 best players on the day in Paul Ifill, Louis Fenton and Stein Huysegems. Ifill put in a cross which Fenton headed down into the path of Huysegems who proceeded past Jurman before slotting home past Theo in the bottom corner. It was a nice goal from Wellington, but a poor piece of defending from Brisbane, particularly Jurman who was caught asleep at the pivotal moment.

Brisbane’s reply wasn’t immediate but like Wellington’s goal- it had been coming as they peppered the Phoenix goal with 2 or 3 good opportunities including one where Berisha turned inside the 6 yard box but couldn’t beat Paston. So in the 36th minute Massimo Murdocca found a pocked of space inside the Wellington half and played a delightful ball through for Berisha to run onto. The Albanian got there and when he did he made no mistake with a delicate chip over the onrushing Paston into the vacant goal making it 1-1. While Berisha’s endeavour to make the run and the finish were brilliant, the credit for the goal must go to Murdocca for the excellent lead-up work from midfield.

The 2nd half was largely anti-climactic with neither side creating anything more than half chances in truth with both seemingly more concerned with not losing rather than pushing on for the 3 points. I guess given the circumstances for both (2 long trips early in the season for Brisbane, busy week for Wellington’s NZ contingent) that’s not overly surprising and both coaches seemed comfortable with the point.
Brisbane’s midfiield appeared to be somewhat off their game today with Nichols and Broich having two of their quieter games in some time. They still played their usual football at times and when they got the ball moving quickly in the front/middle thirds it was a joy to watch- just wish they’d do it more often. They tended to break down when they tried their new direct tactics, with both aerial and on the ground options proving to be fruitless most of the time- the goal being the one exception. This is down to Wellington defending deep with a bank of 4 defenders and two defensive minded midfielders in front of them which meant that Brisbane had to be precise with their forward play every time and at times they weren’t good enough.

The wind conditions didn’t help their cause today as it essentially took e the lofted ball over the top tactic off the table but the direct passing along the ground also broke down today- mainly due to Halloran imo. Nothing against him as he’s young and has a bundle of potential but I thought he got pushed off the ball too easily today and lost possession in good areas too often.  Berisha dropping deep to help link the play often also prevented the direct pass from being effective.

In defence I thought the back 4 dealt with a dangerous Wellington attack pretty well. Yes Jurman was caught out on the goal but that aside I thought that he had a solid game next to Smit who was his usual self. The fullbacks didn’t provide a great deal for mine especially Hingert on the right hand side. Perhaps he was told to be a little more conservative than usual due to the dangerous Ifill operating down his side most of the game, and if he was that’s probably a smart decision from Rado, but I thought he didn’t bring his best in the attack today for whatever reason.

Wellington for their part played in a similar vein to which they did last season against Brisbane with Herbert willing to allow them to have the ball inside their own half. He actually had a line of 4 (Ifill, Brockie, Huysegems, Fenton) about 5m inside his own half as his 1st line of pressure. This worked reasonably well for Wellington last year (the scored 3 goals from this tactic last season) and it worked somewhat today. They created their fair share of turnover and counter attacking opportunities but Ifill and co. weren’t slick enough to profit today. Perhaps Herbert also took a look at a DVD of last weeks game and decided against high pressure due to the threat of Ben Halloran in behimd.
In attack Wellington were extremely reliant on their wide players creating good opportunities by either cutting inside or crossing the ball. Their 2 fullbacks –especially Bertos- were implored to get forward wherever possible and support the front 4 and they did a reasonable job of that today. In the middle there was very little creativity provided by Smith and Muscat and they were essentially there to cancel out attacks. The interchanging of positions between Ifill, Fenton and at times Brockie was good to watch and they’ll be a better side for it once it clicks.

Notes:

-Yuji Takahashi’s late cameo was his 1st appearance for Brisbane Roar and made him the 88th player to pull on the shirt. Congratulations to him.
– Today’s 1-1 draw makes it 3 games unbeaten at Westpac Stadium, dating back to January 2010. Considering the impressive run of form Wellington has had at home the past few seasons that’s a good record over there.
– Besart Berisha today equalled Sergio van Djik’s club record of 25 goals. Sergio got his in 50 games while Berisha got there in only 37 games. It should be pointed out purely in terms of goals in the A-League Berisha is still 2 behind van Djik but factoring in his two ACL goals he’s equal on goals. Mitch Nichols for his part is on 24.

Statistics: (via Fox Sports Football Match Tracker)

Player ratings:
Brisbane: Theo 7, Hingert 6, Smith 7, Jurman 6, Stefanutto 6, Paartalu 6, Murdocca 7, Nichols 6, Halloran 6, Broich 6, Berisha 7, Henrique 6, Takahashi 6.

Wellington: Paston 6, Bertos 7, Sigmund 7, Boxall 6, Lochhead 6, Ifill 7, Muscat 7, Smith 6, Fenton 7, Brockie 6, Huysegems 7, Boyd 6, Totori 6, Lia 6.

Up next:
Brisbane returns home to face new kids on the block Western Sydney Wanderers next Saturday night. The FFA run club is coming into the game on the back a defeat in the inaugural Sydney derby and hasn’t managed to find the net in their opening 3 matches.

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