Soccer: Jinxed Phoenix earn draw with Roar

By Peter Martinez

The season-long jinx of conceding early goals continued for Wellington Phoenix tonight as they drew 1-1 with Queensland Roar in an A-League soccer match in Wellington.

Wellington had two milestones in their sights tonight - to notch consecutive wins for the first time after beating Perth 3-0 last week, and to welcome their 100,000th supporter through the turnstile.

They achieved the second milestone as 9384 fans showed up, giving them a total of 102,545 at the Wellington venue this season with one home match remaining.

Queensland were denied a hat-trick of wins over Wellington, having earlier beaten them 2-1 and 3-0.

But they looked little like a side who are second in the table after going in front early.

As has been their fate for most of the season, Wellington fell behind to an early goal.

Queensland took possession in midfield and found right wing Robbie Kruse, who beat defender Steven Old and passed to Massimo Murdocca in the box.

Murdocca found fellow striker Reinaldo with a square pass and goalkeeper Glen Moss had no chance as the Brazilian swept the ball home.

It was Reinaldo's third goal against the Phoenix and his fifth of the season.

Wellington coach Ricki Herbert had kept faith with the same starting 11 who won last week, but they were slow to find their rhythm and Queensland had the upperhand for most of the opening quarter.

An opportunity for a penalty went begging when referee Ben Williams failed to spot the ball hitting Queensland defender Stuart McLaren on the hand inside the box in the 15th minute.

There was more danger for Wellington in the 17th minute but Moss proved equal to the task by turning away a long, low shot by Murdocca.

Wellington came back when midfielders Vince Lia, Michael Ferrante and Felipe upped their workrate and had their first look at Queensland's goal in the 22nd minute when Lia's dipping, 30m shot went over the crossbar.

Wellington's reward came two minutes later.

Defender Karl Dodd played a gem of a long ball from inside his half which found striker Shane Smeltz on the edge of the box.

Smeltz was all poise and elegance as he beat Korean defender Hyuk-Su Seo and rifled the ball into the net with an acutely angled shot.

After skipper Vaughan Coveny came desperately close to connecting an Ahmad Elrich cross with his head a minute later, Wellington closed the first half with another look at the Queensland goal.

But Smeltz was unable to pierce a packed defence after a bright run by Felipe, who beat a couple of defenders to lay on a short pass inside the box.

Neither side could establish fluency with their passing and the game became a midfield arm wrestle with neither side able to gain ascendency for any lengthy period.


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