Soccer: Phoenix draw with Fury

Phoenix 1
Fury 1

The Wellington Phoenix suffered heartbreak in their A-League soccer match yesterday when North Queensland Fury equalised with the last kick of the match for a draw in Wellington.

The home side, who had led for most of the contest, were left to rue missed opportunities when Fury substitute Chris Grossman scored in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time.

Phoenix captain Andrew Durrante was adamant afterwards that Fury did not deserve the draw and he blamed the late goal on his side losing concentration.

"We lost our concentration at the end and it's cost us, and it is gut wrenching," Durrante said.

"It was one of the hardest games I've had to walk off the field after.

"Obviously we were trying to keep a clean sheet and it eluded us again."

The result of the first meeting between the two clubs maintained the status quo at the bottom of the table, with the Wellington side remaining one point ahead of the last-placed North Queenslanders.

Fury skipper Robbie Fowler was the game's big drawcard and the Phoenix were reasonably successful in keeping the former Liverpool and England striker contained.

But Fowler also showed glimpses of the danger he posed.

In the 36th minute he forced a good save from goalkeeper Mark Paston with a well-struck free kick from outside the box.

In the 79th minute, he appeared to have got his fifth goal of the season with a tap-in from close range, but Grossman, who fed him the pass, was ruled offside.

Fowler did have the last laugh, as it was his free kick from 35m that was cleared only as far as Grossman, who fired home to wipe out a lead the Phoenix had held since the sixth minute.

The game's opening goal had come from a well worked move.

Daniel floated a corner to the edge of the penalty box where Paul Ifill engineered some space to lob the ball over the defence to Durrante. Durrante knocked the ball back across goal to an unmarked Leo Bertos, who finished from close in.

The Phoenix then twice almost doubled their lead in the next dozen minutes.

Tim Brown's crisply hit 20m shot was pushed wide by Fury goalkeeper Paul Henderson before Daniel somehow let slip a gilt-edged chance in the 17th minute.

Ifill, who showed plenty of nice touches before he was subbed off early in the second half with what appeared to be a leg injury, made a fine run down the right.

The Englishman's inviting cross reached Daniel, who failed to turn ball into the net from 2m out.

At the other end, Paston was called on tip over a firmly struck Daniel McBreen header, before the home side began a period of domination, helped by some hesitant Fury defending.

But the visitors came out after halftime determined to grab a share of the spoils, and Paston was forced into another save from a McBreen header.

In an open contest with plenty of goalmouth action, both sides continued to work hard to carve out chances, before Grossman landed the late killer blow.

One small crumb of consolation for the Phoenix is that they have now extended their unbeaten run at Westpac Stadium to nine matches dating back to last October.

- NZPA

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