Football: Melbourne Victory win A-League Pre-Season Cup on penalties

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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Australian football (soccer) club Melbourne Victory FC have defeated New Zealand's Wellington Phoenix FC 8-7 in a penalty shootout to win the fourth annual A-League Pre-Season Challenge Cup. The match, played at Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand in front of 9,208 spectators, finished at 0-0 after the regulation 90 minutes.

The match took place at the Westpac Stadium
Image: Hamedog.

The match saw relatively few chances, the best of which fell to the Phoenix. Melbourne goalkeeper Michael Theoklitos made two stunning saves in the second half which were the obvious highlights of the regulation playing time. On 68 minutes, the Victory failed to sufficiently clear a corner kick by the Phoenix, and midfielder Richard Johnson sent a volley shot heading towards the right hand side of the net from 20 metres out until Theoklitos' intervention prevented it from breaking the deadlock.

The other major chance of the match came 12 minutes later, when the home side's striker Shane Smeltz headed the ball towards the bottom left hand corner of the Melbourne goal. Once again, Theoklitos managed to readjust his balance and made the save down low to his right, parrying the ball away from the danger area.

With the 2008-09 A-League — Australia's top-tier football completion — season proper starting in only nine days, competition rules provide that if the scores finish level after 90 minutes, the match goes directly to a penalty shootout. In nearly all other competitions around the world, including the season proper's final series, 30 minutes of extra time would be played before a penalty shootout is used.

Melbourne captain Rodrigo Vargas won the coin-toss prior to the shootout and elected that his side would go first. During the opening five penalties, both Smeltz for Wellington and Nick Ward for Melbourne missed the goals completely — both shooting high and to the left of the goals in very similar style to each other — resulting in the scoreline being 4-4 after the five mandatory penalties. At this point the shootout became a "sudden death" situation.

Three more pairs of penalties passed with success by both sides, before the shootout was decided on the ninth round of the shootout. Melbourne scored, before Wellington's Karl Dodd's penalty driven low to the right hand side of Theoklitos was stopped by the Victory 'keeper to win the Cup for Melbourne after 18 penalty kicks.

The trophy was the Victory's third piece of silverware since their establishment for the start of the A-League competition in 2005; they we the premiers and champions of the 2006-07 A-League season. For Wellington, this was their first ever final in any competition, as well as the first time a New Zealand side has been in an Australian domestic club competition final in the history of professional football (soccer) in the country, which dates back to the Football Kingz FC in 1999.


Some information contained in this article was obtained from television, radio, or live webcast sources. Reporter's notes and the broadcast source details are available at the collaboration page.