In glorious Melbourne sunshine, a stone-cold A-League classic unfolded at Swan St.
Mark Rudan will be disappointed his in-form Wellington side were unable to hold onto their 3-1 halftime lead, but a spirited fightback from Victory – backed by a vociferous home crowd – meant the draw was probably a fair reflection of the game.
Victory were ahead after just five minutes, with Ola Toivonen’s delicate chip coming way against the run of play. The lead lasted just two minutes, with Louis Fenton crossing for David Williams to restore parity.
Victory simply couldn’t deal with the Wellington high press and were exposed by Josh Hope’s turnover in his own box on the 20 minute mark.
The young midfielder tried to make amends, but his clumsy attempt to win the ball back tripped up Roy Krishna, and referee Jared Gillet pointed to the spot without hesitation. Krishna himself stepped up to smash the ball into the back of the net from 11m.
Phoenix sent their healthy away support into delirium eight minutes later, as another promising counter attack opened up the long range shot for Williams. Lawrence Thomas only succeeded in parrying it straight to the danger man Krishna, who struck home the loose ball for his second and Wellington’s third.
Muscat brought off the rattled Hope for Raul Baena at halftime, and the change had an immediate impact. A wonderful move involving Baena, Kosta Barbarouses, Toivonen, and finally James Troisi saw Victory pull a goal back in the 56th minute.
The thoroughly underwhelming Corey Brown was also substituted, with winger Elvis Kamsoba brought on to chase the game.
However, it was the extra blue shirt provided by deputy left back Terry Antonis which led to the equaliser – Antonis’ cross not cleared by the Nix backline, and Kosta Barbarouses firing into the bottom corner to set up a grandstand finish.
The winner would not come for either side, but Muscat’s men will be happy enough to settle for a point after they were so humbled in the first 45 minutes.
Lawrence Thomas – 6.5
Could have done more to push Williams’ long range strike wider and away from the danger area – an error that Krishna punished ruthlessly. Otherwise could not be faulted for any of the goals.
Storm Roux – 5.5
A nervy start from the Kiwi as he gave away an unnecessary corner, which set the tone early for a hesitant performance. Should have done more to challenge Krishna for the rebound off Thomas. Better in the second half but was still beaten in one on one situations and needs to improve defensively.
Thomas Deng – 8
Played Fenton onside in the build-up to Wellington’s equaliser, and was unsure in the first half with Krishna and Singh dribbling at him. Imperious in the second, winning several crucial duels, denying Sheridan with a goal-saving challenge, and distributing the ball well as Victory chased the game.
Leigh Broxham – 7
Again deputising as a centre back, Broxham did well to hold up counter attacks, and won more headers than he had a right to. Kevin Muscat must wish he had two or three Broxhams to choose from, given Victory’s current injury issues.
Corey Brown – 3
Caught square by the run of Fenton in the lead-up to Wellington’s equaliser. A very poor performance characterised by inaccurate passing, unconvincing challenges and errant positioning. His flank was repeatedly targeted by Phoenix, and he proved a clear weak point in the lineup. Toivonen alerted the Victory bench in the first half that Brown was not at full fitness, but the change did not come until well into the second.