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Phoenix defender Callan Elliot pleads with referee Shaun Lucas.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay has been left seething after a controversial goal from former striker Tomer Hemed gave Western Sydney Wanderers a dramatic 2-0 win at WIN Stadium in Wollongong on Friday, ending their 13-game unbeaten run in the A-League Men.
Referee Stephen Lucas needed the help of video assistant referee Kris Griffiths-Jones to confirm the ball had crossed the line before awarding the 66th minute goal to the Wanderers after James McGarry tried his best to clear it off the line.
But while replays showed the entire ball had crossed the line before McGarry cleared, Griffiths-Jones missed the blatant shove from Hemed on Callan Elliot in the lead-up, which should have resulted in a foul to the Phoenix.
Not only did Hemed push Elliot, leaving him unmarked at the far post, but Elliot went crashing into goalkeeper Oli Sail and Sail then dropped the ball while attempting to gather Bernie Ibini’s flick-on header following a free-kick, allowing Hemed to pounce on the loose ball and score the breakthrough goal.
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“It’s a tough pill to swallow,” Talay said. “I thought we were the better team throughout the game.
“I think, in my opinion, a poor decision in refereeing, a foul on Callan Elliot inside the box, led to the goal.
“At the end of the day whether it finished 5-0 or 2-0 or 1-0, it’s disappointing because I thought we were the better team overall for 90 minutes.”
Talay wondered if Griffith-Jones had only checked to see if the ball had crossed the line and had not noticed the foul on Elliot when he reviewed the footage
“In my opinion they may have missed the push on Cal Elliot.”
Talay said he would speak with the club before deciding whether to lodge a formal complaint with A-League Men bosses.
He was adamant the decision had cost the Phoenix a point.
“At the end of the day there are mistakes within the game, players make 1000 mistakes within the game, but in my opinion the officials can’t get it wrong.”
John Koutroumbis added a second goal in stoppage time when he ran the length of the pitch to score into an empty net after Sail went up for a corner in search of a late equaliser, leaving no one at the back.
“You never want to concede goals, whether it’s one, two or three, but it was the dying seconds of the game, we pushed everyone forward to try and equalise and it’s one of those ones where they break and they score.”
The Phoenix had the ball in the back of the net following a goalmouth scramble in the first half, but Joshua Laws was correctly ruled offside as there was only one man between him and the goal when he made contact. Wanderers goalkeeper Tomas Mejias failed to claim the ball but only Ibini was on the post.
The loss was the Phoenix’s first since round 15 of last season and prevented them from equalling their best-ever start to an A-League Men campaign, after picking up a win and a draw in the first two rounds.
Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Tomer Hemed 66’, John Koutroumbis 90+3’) Wellington Phoenix 0