Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Soccer: Phoenix remain unbeaten

Louis Fenton of the Phoenix competes for the ball with Ben Halloran and Michael Theo of the Roar. Photo / Getty Images
Louis Fenton of the Phoenix competes for the ball with Ben Halloran and Michael Theo of the Roar. Photo / Getty Images

Phoenix 1 Roar 1
The Wellington Phoenix gave up a slender lead but remained unbeaten this season after they held the Brisbane Roar to a 1-1 draw at Westpac Stadium this afternoon.

In a game that was played in strong winds, off-season signing Stein Huysegems bagged his second goal of the year when he put the Phoenix ahead after 17 minutes with a sharp finish from close range.

But, dangerous Brisbane striker Besart Berisha squared the ledger in the 38th minute when he took advantage of some relaxed Phoenix defending.

Brisbane came in to the contest following an impressive 5-0 drubbing of Melbourne Victory last week, which showed their 1-0 loss in the opening round against Perth was just a minor blip on the radar.

They were slow to start against the Phoenix and barely mounted an attack on goal during the first 20 minutes as Wellington began the better of the two sides and made sure Roar keeper Michael Theo was wide awake in goal.

Inspirational Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante was ruled out of the game with illness and his place in the heart of defence was filled by new recruit Michael Boxall.

It was the second game on the bounce for Boxall after he filled in for Ben Sigmund during last weekend's 1-1 draw with Melbourne Heart, which backed up the Phoenix's 2-0 win over Sydney FC in week one.

It was Sigmund who was called upon to lead the Phoenix in Durante's absence and the club veteran was busy at the back as the Phoenix were made to work to contain the dangerous Brisbane attackers.

The fleet-footed Ben Halloran gave Phoenix left back Tony Lochhead a thorough examination and the All Whites defender was exposed on a couple of occasions during the first 45 minutes but settled in to his work as the game went on.

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Phoenix goalkeeper Mark Paston missed both of New Zealand's recent internationals against Tahiti with a foot infection but showed no signs of any lingering issues as he kept his side in the game during the first spell.

The big custodian made two sharp stops from close range, which showed why Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert currently prefers the 35-year-old to Glen Moss.

During the first 15 minutes of the second spell both sides failed to make any inroads as the game drifted along without incident.

Solomon Islands international Benjamin Totori was summoned from the bench after an hour of the game had passed and he replaced Huysegems who had produced a busy shift up front.

Youngster Tyler Boyd, who won't celebrate his 18th birthday until the end of December, was the next Phoenix player to be injected in to the game from the pine when he replaced fellow rookie Louis Fenton with 20 minutes left.

Herbert used his third and final sub when Vince Lia joined the fray in the 83rd minute in place of the industrious Alex Smith but the reserves failed to provide any major impetus as the game stuttered to an eventual draw.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Stein Huysegems 17) Brisbane Roar 1 (Besart Berisha 38) HT: 1-1

- APNZ

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