Melbourne City threw the form book out of the window as they defeated favourites Wellington Phoenix with a 2-0 win in the second of the A-League’s 2015 Elimination Final matches.
In front of 10,171 at Westpac Stadium for the last game to be hosted in New Zealand for the season, goals to Joshua Kennedy and Harry Novillo were enough for the City Football Group-owned side to see off a Phoenix team who couldn’t bounce back from their dip in form towards the end of the regular season.
Nathan Burns gave City an early fright just three minutes into the match with a testing ball from outside the penalty area, forcing a dive out of Tando Velaphi despite sending his shot narrowly wide.
Andrew Durante saved the Phoenix from a dangerous counter attack two minutes later, chasing down David Williams and blocking his shot as the pacey winger found space behind Manny Muscat and failed to capitalise on the opportunity.
With most of the ball in City’s favour from that point, a slight injury scare for the visitors saw Socceroo veteran Joshua Kennedy walk off the pitch after receiving the studs of Vince Lia’s boot on his achilles; he returned within moments much to the relief of John van’t Schipp’s men.
Harry Novillo managed to test Glenn Moss in goal in the 25th minute from a set piece shortly after, but the New Zealand goalkeeper was prepared to make the save. Michael McGlinchey’s free kick seconds later from the edge of the box evaded Velaphi’s reach, but Phoenix were still without a lead as the ball curled onto the upright.
The first card from Ben Williams came in the 42nd minute for Erik Paartalu after the towering midfielder collided with Michael Boxall as the two players challenged for the ball in the centre circle.
Bonevacia also received a yellow card three minutes later after a challenge from behind on Novillo forced Williams to stop play after the Martinique international appeared to require medical attention.
Both sides went into their respective locker rooms deadlocked at half time and City were perhaps the happier of the two sides. Wellington again started the second half with the first chance, with Nathan Burns finding himself behind the defence and sending the ball past both the net and the on-running McGlinchey to see the opportunity pass the home side.
Joshua Kennedy came close to putting City ahead with a run behind Durante to meet Jonatan Germano’s cross, sending his toe poke wide of the upright before sending his toe poke wide of the upright. The tall striker again came close within the minute, sending a header narrowly wide of the same post.
As the clock ticked over the hour mark, City marquee Robert Koren was launched on a counter attack which led to Novillo’s shot inside the box rebounding into Aaron Mooy. The Alex Tobin Award winner sent his attempt through the crowd of Phoenix players to meet the outstretched boot of Kennedy, who lurked behind the pack to put the away side ahead.
Tando Velaphi saved the lead for City five minutes later, picking Nathan Burns’s attempt out of the air as the Phoenix attempted to push their way back into contention. Their frustration showed in the 70th minute, when Ben Sigmund received a booking for mouthing back to Williams.
City capitalised on that frustration in the 72nd minute with another counter attack, as defender Paulo Retre found himself in the box and crossed over the defence to Novillo, whose shot ricocheted off the upright before going in off of Moss’s body for the second goal of the night.
The remaining minutes consisted of several attempts by the Phoenix to attack with counters and set pieces that were thwarted by Velaphi and the offside trap, however a controversial moment in the second of five additional minutes saw Kisnorbo hip-and-shoulder Burns off the ball for a goal kick.
Melbourne City will return home for next week’s semi final, a Melbourne Derby against 2014-15 Premiereship winners Victory at Etihad Stadium on Friday night.