It’s tough work following the Phoenix. All I wanted to do on a Monday night was wolf down some dinner and get involved with some z’s after a hard weekend.
Unfortunately, The Phoenix took on Melbourne Victory at the dreadful hour of 9.30, so I headed round to a mates place to make sure I didn’t miss a 3rd game in a row. No beers in the fridge, so instead I was able to let loose on the cold water and lollipops while we waited for bloody Downton Abbey to finish. Matt flicked over to Sky Sport 2, bang on time for the line-ups, which was all pretty predictable – Wellington typically 2nd best on paper (which is the case 8 times out of 9 – sorry Newcastle, but you are crap). Notably for the Nix, Stein Poorgesms somehow managed to start (again), BossDog Hernandez was in centre mid, and Old-but-gold Ifill had his feet up on the bench.
The boys must have been exploding with confidence, the last Kiwi team to win in Melbourne was only 11 years ago – and that was thanks to Harry ‘Don’t beat your missus’ Ngata for the Kingz! What a champion outfit they were. According to the cringe-worthy Aussie commentary team, it was 16 degrees, reasonably humid, and a really emotional day for Ernie Merrick – he was sacked by Melbourne in 2011 and never got to say goodbye to his boys :( Come on. He’s a Scotsman. He smashed back the whisky that night and has probably held a grudge ever since. I guess if by emotional, they meant blood thirsty, then they probably had a point.
Anyway, by the time I was into my 5th Allens lollipop, we were 10 minutes in. A few dodgy tackles and a couple of speculative efforts from Wellington suggested Ernie had grabbed each man by the nads and demanded a victory – the first 15 minutes was Premier League level excitement, but still very A-League in terms of quality. Melbourne epitomized that A-League quality, when Archie Thompson stumbled onto a ricocheted pass, controlled it with his arm and deflected his shot off Andrew Durante’s sweaty nipples into the far post for 1-0 to Melbourne. Clearly in agony from the nipple chafe, Durante then gifted Melbourne a second – his poofter headed back pass embarrassingly slotted home by James Troisi. Durante, clearly in CBF mode about being selected for the All Whites, then let Troisi breeze past him, to lob over Glen Moss for 3-0 within 30 minutes.
Fair to say that by this stage, it was just about time to flick over to the EPL highlights show on TV1, but for some reason we soldiered on. The Nix, playing with a ridiculously high defensive line, were caught napping on at least 5 more occasions, with no consequences. The only man who looked even half interested was Jeremy Brockie, it was his cocaine-snorting energy that earned the Phoenix an undeserved lifeline. A diagonal ball from Hernandez, taken and finished ruthlessly by last seasons top scorer. Brockie’s determination then had the ball in the back of the net for a second time – beating two players and sliding in a pass for Stein the Brain to finish. Sadly, Huysegems hadn’t finished his cup of tea, and was caught about a foot offside. How handy would 3-2 at half time been?
Very. It would have been very handy. As after the opening 20 minute blur of pure terrible football, the Nix managed 70% of the ball in the final 25 minutes. However, they failed to find any quality in the final 3rd to make any of it count. So Merrick turned to Jesus Christ, our saviour. Jesus strode onto the pitch in the shape of Paul Ifill, and used his holy footballing know-how to conjur up chance after chance for the Jerusalem Phoenix. With just under 10 minutes to go, Ifill turned water into wine and opportunity into goal as he received the ball on the edge of the box, turned his defender like a champ and toe-poked through Nathan Coe’s legs.
A very entertaining climax, subsequently proved too little, too late, though. A late Brockie lunge flew over the bar, and the Nix were sunk. I hung around to scoff a few more lollipops, and watched a bit of the EPL – but ultimately, Monday night ended up being pretty disappointing. It leaves the Phoenix 2nd to bottom, 5 points behind Perth, who they battle on Saturday at 5.30, beer o’clock - I’ll see ya there.
Melbourne Victory 3 (Archie Thompson 9, James Troisi 20, 29) Wellington Phoenix 2 (Jeremy Brockie 36, Paul lfill 84). Halftime: 3-1.