There was some uncertainty about the kick off time for the minor semi final between the Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets. This means that I am rather late in getting across town to where I am going to watch the game with a good proportion of the Avon United 3rd div team.
19 mins: Goal. I have not even been able to find a seat and Newcastle Jets captain Thomson slots it home from a tight angle. Chance came from poor clearance for Sigmund and the room is dark that he has been forced into the centre of defence.
22 mins: Beautiful touch from Manny Musket skins his man but shoots straight at keeper. I am told that the Phoenix won 3-0 in both their games against the Jets this year so goals should come. Especially if Musket keeps making surging runs fifty metres upfield unhindered. But not if his switching crosses are direct passes to Jets midfielders like that.
32 mins: Goal! Tim Brown finishes a scrappy build up coolly. Loopy cross to Ifill on back post who puts it back across. Unusually for the Phoenix there is someone there. Shot blocked but played out to Brown who has the whole net to shoot at and buries it through the middle.
Tim Brown now equal highest scoring midfielder for the team. Pretty much everyone in the room is shaking their head at this. Bertos slayed by the Iraqi, Abbas, who has spent the last twenty minutes diving outrageously. It is always good to build a certain level of injustice early in a game. From the free kick Brown glances header wide. “Ooooh Tim Brown,” is the call. Mike sums it up that he is a six yard finisher which is not what you want for an attacking midfielder.
42 mins: Slack Phoenix D sees a perfect cross from Jin-Hyung Song roll past the face of goal. Missed by Rooney and the Jets should be 2-1 up. I know some of you fellows in yellow have just flown back from Los Angeles but if the opposing winger is rampaging into the box don’t you think you should be a little more urgent than a jog back?
43 mins: Somehow Elrich breaks the offside trap of Phoenix defensive line who are still merely jogging to the half time break. Elrich is one on one with Reddy who saves blushes as well as the shot.
A very long Powerade ad. With the sound off we are not quite sure the exact science they are trying to sell us. The debate is ended by Smitty who wonders whether anyone has ever bought blue Powerade for sports purposes or just the normal Sunday morning hangover cure. That would be a much more interesting scientific analysis.
As we move into the second half Big Mike is berating Phoenix striker Greenacre for not being in the game at all. Most of this is based on his name not being mentioned by anyone in the room but now everyone is talking about him so Mike’s argument may be over.
Jets’ Thompson fluffs tap in on the far post after Sigmund dives in for a tackle. Mr. Ash would not have given him oranges at half time for defence like that for our third form team.
55 mins: The game is a bit dull right now. Grant lets slip that the dog dies at the end of Marley and Me. “Don’t ruin it for all of us who aren’t married yet” Smitty responds forgetting that Grant’s wife, who made some delicious citrus slice for us all, is sitting in the corner.
57 mins: Lovely ball from Ifill to Bertos on the right of the box. The latter uses his bright yellow boots to try and hide the similarly coloured ball with some stepovers. Result, kicks it straight into the defender who just stood there.
59 mins: Corner and Nick predicts a Brown header. He is wrong as the ball does not make it past the first defender.
62 mins: Amazing attacking header from Jets centre back which forces great save from his own keeper who now lies tangled in his own net. Phoenix exert pressure with two poor corners.
63 mins: Greenacre makes his first touch of the half. Getting to the time in the game where things may need some rejigging with some substitutes.
65 mins: And there we go with Bertos making way for Daniel. Jet lag must have been kicking in.
70 mins: Durante saves Sigmund with an absolutely outstanding tackle sprinting back into the box. It would be one of the first things on my strategy board, don’t leave Ben Sigmund one on one at the back.
71 mins: Nice moving sideline camera work as Ifill once again eases past Kantarovski then shoots wide. Who would have thought they would have one of those rail cameras for a Phoenix game. From now on it will be called Ifillcam as it is perfectly positioned for moves like he just completed.
72 mins: Rooney, not that one, off for the Jets. Dadi makes his entrance for the Phoenix.
74 mins: More nice defensive work from team captain Durante. Who then jogs upfield with the ball only to turn and pass it straight out to no-one at all. Probably just wants to do some more stellar defensive work.
80 mins: Dadi makes a header.
81 mins: Just saw Dadi run further right then than during the whole of the game that I attended in Christchurch. One bicycle kick and a silly haircut obviously means you can tune out for the rest of the season.
82 mins: Ifillcam again. Poor Kantarovski just hoping to be substituted now. Out for a corner. And another.
84 mins: Dadi should have bicycled there instead of that header off the top of his mop sending the ball in a loopy parabola well over the top. Daniel has been very influential since coming on. Able to find Ifill at will. The director is loving it as each time he can use Ifillcam which we have just seen is not any sort of fancy mechanical thing but just a guy with a steady cam. Top work by that man, great pictures.
87 mins: Ifill ripped down just outside of box. Kantarovski finally found a way to hold him up a little. If he had stayed on his feet he was in. Extra time looming.
89 mins: Pavlovic skies his shot after getting open on the back post. Reddy and thirty odd thousand people exhale in relief. Four minutes added time though both teams seem more interested in playing out for the extra thirty.
All ten of us in the room are literally pointing as a Jets player runs right through the Phoenix line. All of whom seemed intent on not looking at him, luckily he just mistimed the run and the linesman’s flag is up. Big Mike can’t handle it anymore and goes outside to throw a ball against a wall. He comes rushing back in as Ifill beats the keeper, then himself and can’t finish as the ball squirts too far for him to retrieve. Extra time.
They have just put up the stats screen for the ninety minutes. Phoenix totally dominant with 60-40% possession, ten corners to one, and an incredible forty nine balls into the penalty area. This really should have been over in regulation time.
Oh dear. A big yellow sign bearing the words ‘Can’t Shake This Yellow Fever’ being held aloft by two Asian gentlemen.
92 mins: Once again Ifill absolutely schools Kantarovski. Another beautiful run but hits the post with his shot.
“Dadi’s like a dog on heat thrusting only air” Grant.
94 mins: Brown disrupts a perfect ball for a bicycle from Dadi and more great buildup in diffused and the Jets counter results in a free kick just outside the Phoenix box. Tame looping shot is seen over the crossbar by Reddy.
Balls into penalty area 54-12 in favour of the Phoenix. That is ridiculous.
Brown to Ifill. “Come on, eat him again for the millionth time,” Skinner yells. So he does. Cuts and shoots low and hard to the far side of the net. Lovely goal. Time for the yellow fever to take their tops off. Some impressive man boobs on display and also some disastrous tats.
Dadi stretching as though he has played all 105 minutes and not just 35.
Petrovski shoots well again, he has looked the most likely for the Jets since half time. Reddy saves well this time and doesn’t leave it up to his left post like ten minutes ago. Newcastle are stringing together a number of good counter attacks. Grant is still hopeful for penalties.
114 mins: Diego forgets to shoot a lovely pass across goal but keeps possession and an easy tap in for Dadi. He seems like one of those players who specialises in meaningless goals. One of those silly African dances from the 3 D’s involved in the build up to the goal. Daniel, Diego, and Dadi.
116 mins: Ifill skins Kantarovski yet again but the Ifillcam seems to have run himself out.
I am really pleased about this as I hate penalty shootouts. And there is the final whistle which brings a huge cheer from the thirty thousand plus. Best players were Ifill who absolutely had his way with Kantarovski all afternoon and Durante who was very solid in defense. Ricky Herbert deserves some credit also for the Daniel substitution as the Brazilian was responsible for most of the quality ball that got played forward for the home side.
Harry Ngata’s opening line in his post match interview with Herbert is “Ricky we have to stop meeting like this, I’m always congratulating you on winning these big games.” What exactly did he mean by that? Was he hoping for a Phoenix loss?