Soccer: Draw keeps Phoenix's unbeaten record intact

By Terry Maddaford

Home side miss chances in first quarter.

Tony Lochhead is tackled by the Roar's Jack Hingert. Photo / Getty Images
Tony Lochhead is tackled by the Roar's Jack Hingert. Photo / Getty Images

As teams around them slumped to their first losses, the Wellington Phoenix continued their unbeaten start to the A-League season with a no frills 1-1 draw with two-time defending champions Brisbane Roar yesterday.

It was the best start yet by Ricki Herbert's team who have followed their 2-0 opening win over Sydney FC with successive 1-1 draws to keep themselves firmly in the mix at the top of the table.

Again, though, there would have been some disappointment, even frustration, at their failure to really hurt the visitors in the opening minutes.

Utterly dominant in the first 20 minutes, the Phoenix had only one well-taken goal from Belgian striker Stein Huysegems to show for their efforts.

Playing to the conditions, the home side dominated play with right back Leo Bertos called to make many throw-ins as they pushed forward to repeatedly ask questions of the Roar defence.

A Paul Ifill intercept in the fifth minute created the first telling effort but he was wide.

Seven minutes later Bertos charged boldly, pushed the ball beyond Massimo Murdocca, gathered and sent in a great cross which eluded despairing attempts from Jeremy Brockie and Ifill to steer it goalwards.

The Phoenix were deservedly rewarded three minutes later when Ifill combined with Louis Fenton, who pushed the ball to Huysegems, who buried his second in as many outings at Westpac Stadium.

In failing to turn more half chances into goals, the home side frustrated the almost 10,000-strong crowd.

As the Roar clawed their way back into the contest there was a feeling they were preparing to get back on terms and go on to show the stuff champions often produce.

After goalkeeper Mark Paston, back on duty after missing the two internationals with an infected foot, made two great saves, a third was beyond him as Murdocca won midfield possession, picked out a gap in the Phoenix defensive line to find Albanian striker Besart Berisha, who spotted the advancing keeper and simply steered the ball home from the edge of the penalty area.

The second half was a more dour battle played out in midfield with few genuine scoring chances.

With a win and two draws, the Phoenix will head to Hindmarsh Stadium on Saturday to play an Adelaide United side smarting from their first loss - beaten 2-1 away by Melbourne Victory (their first win).

Herbert will be looking to his captain Andrew Durante to return after being hospitalised with a vomiting bug which ruled him out of yesterday's encounter.

Ben Sigmund, charged with leading the team, turned in another staunch defensive effort alongside rookie Michael Boxall, who deputised for Durante, while in midfield Alex Smith and Manny Muscat again combined well in a battle which produced no clear winner.

Wellington 1
Brisbane 1

- NZ Herald

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