City upset Phoenix to set up derby semi

Melbourne City have set up a huge semi-final clash with local rivals Melbourne Victory after their upset 2-0 elimination final win over Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Sunday night.

A tense affair sprung to life in the second half as Josh Kennedy and a Glen Moss own goal in the space of 11 minutes swung the game in City’s favour.

The Phoenix never stopped trying to get back into the contest but struggled to break down a stubborn City defence.

The reward for City is a massive Melbourne derby against the Premiers’ Plate winners for a spot in this year’s decider.

GOALS

0-1 Kennedy (61’) – A quick City counter-attack saw them stream forward in numbers with the ball eventually getting to Harry Novillo in the box. The chance looked to have gone when the winger was closed down but the ball fell to Aaron Mooy who lashed it towards goal, with Kennedy getting a touch to wrong foot Moss.

0-2 Moss OG (72’) – Another crisp, clinical counter-attack was started and finished by Novillo. After being picked out with a cross from the right, Novillo’s shot took a slight deflection off Ben Sigmund and hit the post, rebounding back onto Moss and going in. Cruel luck for the Phoenix gloveman.

KEY MOMENT

A silly foul by Novillo presented Phoenix with a free-kick just outside the City box on 28 minutes. After Roly Bonevacia wasted one earlier, Michael McGlinchey took this one and went within a whisker of giving the home side the lead. His strike went high over the wall but had great dip, swerve and power to crash onto the crossbar and away. It was the closest either side came to a goal until Kennedy had three chances in quick succession early in the second half, taking one to give City the lead. With the score still at 1-0, Nathan Burns squandered a great chance when his header was saved by Tando Velaphi from point-blank range. It should have been a goal and could have turned the match, but Novillo made him pay soon after.

OPTA DATA KEY STATS

Phoenix’s first-half struggles continued, now failing to find the back of the net in the opening 45 minutes in six successive matches. The win was just City’s second against Wellington in their last 12 clashes and the first time in their last seven games this season they have scored more than one goal.

HIGHLIGHTS REEL

Kennedy’s goal might have been the difference but the performance of City skipper Patrick Kisnorbo was just as important for the visitors. The all-action defender threw his body into every challenge, blocking shots and coming up with vital tackles on numerous occasions, including for City’s opening goal. Even Fox Sports commentator Andy Harper was impressed by the defending, noting: “Patrick Kisnorbo is at his happiest when he’s horizontal”.

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

Injuries and lack of form by some of Melbourne City’s regular full-backs saw coach John van ‘t Schip use Paulo Retre and Jonatan Germano in those positions. Burns and Louis Fenton struggled to put any real pressure on them and it wasn’t until it was too late in the second half when they had more joy. Maybe if Fijian flyer Roy Krishna had started things may have been different.

THE FINAL WORD

Top of the league a month ago, Phoenix’s season ends with a whimper as they are bundled out in the first week of the finals. A disappointing end to a campaign that promised so much.

After a lean run of form, City delivered when it mattered and now have a blockbuster Melbourne derby against Victory to look forward to with a grand final spot on the line.

TEAMS:

Wellington Phoenix: Moss, Sigmund, Sigmund, Durante, Muscat, Riera, Lia (Rodriguez 78’), Bonevacia, Fenton (Cunnigham 78’), McGlinchey (Krishna 58’), Burns

Melbourne City: Velaphi, Retre, Chapman, Kisnorbo, Germano, Paartalu, Mooy, Koren, Williams, Kennedy (Marino 84’), Novillo (Murdocca 90’)

Scorers: Kennedy 61’, Moss (og) 72’

Red cards: none

Yellow cards: Paartalu 42’, Bonevacia 45’, Sigmund 70’, Marino 90+3’

Conditions: 13C, Fine

Attendance: 10,171@ Westpac Stadium