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Throwback Thursday: Hit For Six

In Spain they call it ‘la manita’, the little hand. Five goals, without reply. When Barcelona put five past Real Madrid in 2010, the pictures in the papers the next day were of Pique, Busquets and Puyol with their hands raised towards their supporters. 

The Phoenix had scored a finger shy of two hands worth of goals in the first ten games of the 2009 – 10 season. Their one win had come at home against Perth Glory. They’d only lost twice though, an 84th minute heartbreaker against Newcastle Jets and a businesslike 0 – 2 dispatching by Sydney F.C. Six draws in a row though, curiously pleasing and yet utterly frustrating, brought them home to the Westpac and their opponents, Gold Coast United.

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“We’re going to win the league!”

This was GCU’s first season in the A-League, owned by notorious rich bluster cloud Clive Palmer. They were flying, sort of, winning six out of their first eleven matches, losing three and drawing two. They’d only failed to score twice, including against the Phoenix in the away leg. Their biggest victory had been a manita of their own against fellow newcomers North Queensland Fury, in round two.

Perhaps the pent up frustration of six draws in a row was the source of what unfolded that evening.

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Not la manita. Not just the one hand. In one night, Wellington Phoenix nearly doubled their goal tally for the season, lifting themselves from the foot of the table and destabilising Gold Coast United.

Six. Without reply. La manita y un dedo. One finger more. And it may as well have been a middle finger, aimed right at their opponents. In the build up, GCU coach Miron Bleiberg had suggested that Ricki Herbert should pay more attention to the upcoming Bahrain World Cup playoff game. Afterwards, he could only concede that he’d been beaten by the better side.

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Then Rory did this and made him look like an even bigger boofhead.

It was a near perfect team performance and it was the Paul Ifill show. The former, found the sort of synchronicity that creates beautiful football, the latter gliding and slaloming through his opponents, laying on three goals for others before bagging one himself – bandage wrapped around his head.

That said, at half time it was only 1 – 0 to the Phoenix. Ifill, on the loose down the left following some fancy footwork from Tony Lochhead, squared the ball about three yards out from the goal line. Daniel couldn’t miss, even with a flurry of GCU defenders rushing to try and prevent the strike. The floodgates opened in the second half after GCU’s keeper, Jess Vanstratten, was substituted for Scott Higgins.

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If you’re going to come out for a ball, commit to it. Higgins certainly made yards, after Ifill’s beautiful team splitting pass. But Tim Brown was quicker of mind, and feet, and evaded the flying keeper before stroking the ball home. Former Nix striker Shane Smeltz was serenaded by the Fever, but asking him the score was pretty pointless, because the goals kept on coming.

Then Ifill, again, from the right. A mirror image of his assist for the first goal, with Daniel on the end of it again. I doubt the ball travelled further than a metre from the Brazilian’s foot over the line for either of his goals, always nice if you’re a striker.

The Brazilian turned provider for industrious Chris Greenacre a minute later, before Ifill decided to get on the scoresheet himself, after getting on the end of a Leo Bertos long throw. Four goals in 11 minutes. He was hooked after 67 minutes, to a standing ovation, with the score balanced on a knife edge. Five nil. It’s the most dangerous scoreline.

Six came late, an agonising twenty minutes later, as Troy Hearfield came off the bench to put the finishing touch on a record breaking regular season victory in the A-League. Ricki had some choice words for the GCU bench as well.

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John Palethorpe

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