Soccer: Phoenix snatch draw

The Wellington Phonenix picked up a 1-1 draw against Melbourne Victory tonight.

The one point they earned could be crucial later in the season but the Phoenix will be a little disappointed with the result after dominating the defending champions for the whole game.

The goal they conceded, the fifth time in six matches that they have let their opponents score first, was a gem for which none could be blamed.

Melbourne's Costa Rican international, Carlos Hernandez, curled a dipping freekick over the wall which left goalkeeper Mark Paston clutching at thin air as the ball zipped into the net.

The Phoenix showed character in coming back into the match, the defence and midfield, marking one to one, put a vise-like grip on the match that the Melbourne attackers could not unlock.

The fierce tussle between Melbourne striker Fabiano and Phoenix rightback Manny Muscat spiced up the first 20 minutes during which a frustrated Fabiano was shown the yellow card for a late tackle on Jon McKain.

At the front, Daniel and Paul Ifill showed signs that they were establishing a combination that in time could be lethal to any opposition.

Daniel produced clever touches that put pressure on the Melbourne defence while Ifill is increasingly becoming a leader in the engine room.

Striker Chris Greenacre found space in the 17th minute for a surprise cross but Daniel's volley was well-saved by former Phoenix custodian Glen Moss.

The equaliser came when Daniel and Ifill combined well in midfield and the Brazilian's cross from Ifill's return ball found Tim Brown.

The midfielder, who squandered two golden opportunities last week against Adelaide, made no mistake this time, sweeping the ball home on the turn for his first goal of the season.

The Phoenix had another couple of worthy chances, the first coming when skipper Andrew Durante saw his powerful header off a Leo Bertos corner kick tipped over the crossbar by Moss.

Another corner late in the half gave Greenacre a chance but his stab was blocked and scrambled away.

The Phoenix have often surrendered tight away games in the second half but there was no lapses this time.

McKain, Durante, Muscat and Tony Lochhead were solid today and received ample support from their midfielders leaving Melbourne, seeking the first home win of the season, to make potshots from long range.

Such was their hold on the game, Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert had the luxury of giving Hamilton teenager Marco Rojas, 17, his A-League debut, coming on for Leo Bertos in midfield with 15 minutes to go.

The Phoenix, now with six points, play their next two matches at home starting with North Queensland Fury next Sunday.

- NZPA

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