Wellington Phoenix defeat Perth Glory on penalties
Wellington Phoenix have advanced to the second week of finals after overcoming Perth Glory in a penalty shootout. The match ended 1-1 after the New Zealanders took the lead in the 37th minute through Chris Greenacre before Perth's Scott Neville equalised half an hour later before extra time and a penalty kicks were required to find a winner.
Phoenix goalkeeper Liam Reddy was brilliant in the shootout, saving two of the Glory's spot kicks, sending his side through to the next phase of the play-offs where they will host the Newcastle Jets on March 7.
The home side looked the better of the two teams early in the piece with Paul Ifill in dangerous form as the Glory struggled to provide any real chances in the opening 20 minutes.
But they came into it as the half-hour mark approached and were beginning to worry the Phoenix defence, especially when they advanced down the left flank.
The Phoenix managed to hold those advances at bay and then got themselves in the lead after some dubious defending from the Glory allowed Ifill to produce a clever back heel into the path of Manny Muscat who took the ball into the area and squared it up for Chris Greenacre who was on hand to knock it in from close range. It was a good reward for the Englishman who copped a heavy knock earlier in the match and was close to being substituted by coach Ricki Herbert.
On the stroke of half-time, Wellington came close to adding a second when Ifill created some magic outside the area and turned with a curling shot that was heading for the top right corner but for the acrobatic effort of Glory keeper Tando Velaphi. The visitors then took it straight down the other end where midfielder Wayne Srhoj let loose with a volley but the well-struck shot was held onto by Liam Reddy to round out the first half.
Immediately after the re-start, the Phoenix had some anxious moments as the Glory went straight for an equaliser but once again they negated the attack and remained a goal up while down the other end, Ifill was showing his full array of tricks and came close to setting up a goal but his cleverly chipped ball to the back post was cleared to safety by the Glory defence.
In the 52nd minute, Perth thought they had got that equaliser when Srhoj was on the end of a good build up but he was judged off-side by the linesman before he knocked it in from a few yards out.
Fifteen minutes later, the Glory did get that elusive leveller when skipper Jacob Burn's free-kick was met by an unmarked Scott Neville who nodded it into the back of the net, much to the ire of Phoenix gloveman Reddy.
That goal created some urgency in both camps, especially in the case of the Phoenix who had given up a well-earned lead and they needed Reddy to save them again when Mile Sterjovski found space and unleashed a swinging left-footed volley in the 89th minute.
The match was forced into extra time after the score finished at 1-1 after regular time and Wellington were agonisingly close to going ahead again but Manny Muscat's chip in the direction of Eugene Dadi in the 97th minute had too much on it and the Glory lived to see another day.
Two minutes before the break in extra time, Phoenix were reduced to ten men when defender Jon McKain was sent off for a second bookable offence after up-ending Daniel McBreen forcing Wellington coach Herbert to reshuffle his formation and putting the home side in a precarious position.
In the 107th minute, it was Reddy to the rescue again when he denied Neville a potential second goal with a reflex save after the defender got his head to a deep cross - the piece of play sending shudders through the Phoenix players, officials and fans.
After 120 minutes, neither side could manage a winner sending the match into a penalty shootout which the Phoenix won when Adrian Caceres converted their fourth spot kick which sent the massive crowd into raptures.
WP 2. Manny Muscat, 3. Tony Lochhead (Eugene Dadi 75'), 4. Jon McKain, 6. Tim Brown, 7. Leo Bertos (Adrian Caceres 70'), 8. Paul Ifill, 9. Chris Greenacre (Ben Sigmund 106'), 13. Troy Hearfield, 17. Vince Lia, 22. Andrew Durante, 40. Liam Reddy (gk)
Subs: 11. Daniel, 14. Adrian Caceres (70'), 15. Eugene Dadi (75'), 18. Ben Sigmund (106'), 20. Reece Crowther (gk)
PG 1. Tando Velaphi (gk), 2. Daniel McBreen, 3. Jamie Coyne, 4. Andy Todd, 6. Chris Coyne, 7. Jacob Burns (Adriano Pellegrino 113'), 10. Wayne Srhoj (Mile Sterjovski 57'), 12. Scott Neville, 14. Steven McGarry, 17. Todd Howarth (Scott Bulloch 57'), 19. Naum Sekulovski
Subs: 5. Jamie Harnwell, 13. Scott Bulloch (57'), 16. Adriano Pellegrino (113'), 20. Alex Vrteski (gk), 21. Mile Sterjovski (57')