Kalezic stands by Ri­den­ton

The Timaru Herald - - SPORT - LIAM HYSLOP

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.

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