<
>
2018/19 Australian A League, Regular Season
  • Daniel Georgievski (32' OG)
  • Roy Krishna (89')
  • Dimitrios Petratos (90'+5')

VAR controversy dominates Wellington Phoenix win over Newcastle Jets

Opinions were split over the perplexing VAR system but it mattered little to the Wellington Phoenix, who opened the Mark Rudan era with a 2-1 A-League win over the Newcastle Jets.

In a performance which suggests the Phoenix have developed a spine under new coach Rudan, the home side notched just the second opening-round win in their history on Sunday.

However, the main take-away was two contentious decisions made upon review by referee Daniel Elder. The rulings overshadowed a stubborn and passionate display from the hosts, whose lack of fight and defensive holes crippled them for much of last season.

A first-half own goal from Daniel Georgievski and Roy Krishna's late penalty secured victory before Dimitri Petratos's strike deep into injury time arrived too late for Newcastle.

The reason for Krishna's penalty was the prime source of confusion and only clarified later by officials -- that Kaine Sheppard had taken out fellow-substitute Mitch Nichols off the ball. The review unfolded some time after the foul took place and was deemed the right call by Rudan.

However, it was slammed for multiple reasons by Jets counterpart Ernie Merrick.

"The ball was nowhere near and he [Nichols] didn't claim for anything. It seems to work out well if you fall over," Merrick said. "If the referee continues to play and lets it go on ... I don't understand the VAR."

Merrick admitted his team were fortunate half an hour earlier when the VAR nullified an apparent goal to Phoenix midfielder Sarpreet Singh. Merrick and Rudan both agreed the hand ball ruling was wrong and the goal should have stood.

Combative rookie coach Rudan didn't want the VAR to detract from a performance which said answers critics who had already installed the Phoenix as competition outsiders: "There's going to be improvement from us. Write us off at your own peril, and they already have. But that's just noise as far as we're concerned."

English centre back Steven Taylor showed why he forged such a long career at Newcastle United, superbly marshalling a defence which leaked 55 goals last season. And it was Taylor who also sparked the own-goal, when he headed a Singh cross tantalisingly in the direction of goalkeeper Glen Moss.

Sensing danger, Georgievski rose but only succeeded in flicking his attempted headed clearance into the net. Rudan surprised by naming Australian veterans Mitch Nichols and Nathan Burns on the bench and omitting Polish midfield signing Michal Kopczynski altogether.

Merrick had to make do without the suspended Roy O'Donovan and injured pair Joe Champness and Ben Kantarovski.

Jets' Venezuelan midfielder Ronnie Vargas made a successful return from a long-term injury and was arguably the game's premier player.