Kalezic stands by Ridenton
Football can be a cruel game.
Heroes and villains are made via split-second decisions and sadly for Matthew Ridenton on Saturday night he didn’t quite get things right.
The Wellington Phoenix midfielder had the chance to either win the game, or set up a teammate for a winner, in second-half injury time of the 1-1 draw against the Western Sydney Wanderers at Westpac Stadium. He was put through one-on-one, but didn’t pull the trigger in the first instance, before pulling the ball back and putting in a tame shot.
The thing is though, these things happen quite a bit in football games. In the 10th minute, Roy Krishna – the Phoenix’s all-time second leading scorer – had a oneon-one shot saved. He tried to beat the goalkeeper at his near post, while his team-mates had a threeon-two in the box if he had squared it to them.
Michael McGlinchey had a couple of good chances in the first half too, before Krishna missed another in first-half injury time. A few minutes prior to Matjia Wellington Phoenix 1 (Matija Ljujic 75’) Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Brendon Santalab 28’) . HT: 0-1. Ljujic’s 75th-minute equaliser, Nathan Burns missed a one-on-one chance of his own.
But all social media remembered post-match was Ridenton’s miss. Calls for him to be dropped were immediate. Some even said the club should cut him loose. And that’s where the real cruelness in this story lies. A 21-year-old defensive midfielder somehow being blamed for his team not winning, despite the rest of his team having 23 shots throughout the game.
In an ideal world, Phoenix coach Darije Kalezic would have been toasting Ridenton for scoring or setting up the winner, but reality is seldom so simple.
Kalezic said Ridenton would learn from the experience and praised his high level of play in almost every other aspect of the game this season.
‘‘I would rather see a player like Matthew close his eyes and shoot the ball on the goal and if he misses then he misses, but I want to see that he really wants to make a goal and win the game, and I didn’t see that in his action.
‘‘This is a little bit mentality, but don’t understand me wrongly because if you see what kind of job Matthew delivers every game then he shows also good mentality.
‘‘So, this year, we have to invest in his development and don’t be critical too much. He knows like everybody else, because he has a good mentality, that he has to score or to give an assist to Andrija [Kaludjerovic].’’
In terms of that other play, Ridenton sits third in the league in chances created with 33 in 15 games. That’s his main job, to set up goals for others.
He has created more chances per game (2.2) than the previous two Johnny Warren Medal winners, Sydney FC’s Milos Ninkovic (2.0) and Perth’s Diego Castro (2.15).
Really, the game should have been put to bed long before his chance, with finishing high on Kalezic’s training agenda this week after their last two games yielded just three goals from 53 shots.