Soccer: Phoenix set A-League home record

Chris Greenacre of the Phoenix celebrates his goal. Photo / Getty Images
Chris Greenacre of the Phoenix celebrates his goal. Photo / Getty Images

Wellington set a new A-League record with a 2-2 draw in an A-League soccer match against Melbourne Heart today, and fittingly they required the help of a strong Wellington wind to do it.

The draw took their unbeaten record at Wellington to 24 consecutive A-League matches, which eclipses the 23-match unbeaten run of Sydney United at their home ground in the old national soccer league from 1996-99.

Trailing 1-2 with 30 minutes remaining, Wellington midfielder Leo Bertos' seemingly innocuous shot from outside the penalty box caught a timely wind gust, which put some late swerve on the ball and Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton was beaten all ends up.

It was a cruel blow to the visitors who had been very good during the first hour, but Wellington probably deserved a point given they dominated the second half after a rusty first 45 minutes.

Wellington made the perfect start to the match, however, as striker Chris Greenacre opened the scoring inside 6min.

Manny Muscat was the instigator, the midfielder providing a delightful defence-splitting ball to Greenacre, who outstripped his marker and slotted the ball past Bolton with his first touch to score his fourth goal of the season.

Wellington striker Paul Ifill, looking more lively after a week off, had two good chances to add to their tally but he could not find the target and it was all the Heart for the remainder of the first half as the home team made uncharacteristic mistakes.

The visitors levelled in the 14th minute, striker John Aloisi blasting a penalty under Mark Paston after Muscat needlessly fouled Adrian Zahara as the striker was heading away from goal.

Paston, resuming the goalkeeping duties after playing second-fiddle to Danny Vukovic for the past month, got a touch on the shot but it was too powerful to stop.

Wellington struggled to keep possession and the Heart, who had not won away from home in their debut season, grew in confidence after equalising.

They took a deserved lead after 36min after some terrible defending from Ben Sigmund and Troy Hearfield, the Phoenix pair letting Matt Thompson turn between them before firing an unstoppable shot past Paston.

Wellington coach Ricki Herbert turned to the bench at halftime, a sign he was unimpressed with the first 45 minutes.

Midfielder Vince Lia and striker Mirjan Pavlovic replaced defender Jade North and attacking midfielder Nick Ward as Herbert rejigged his formation, having opted to start with his much talked about 3-4-3 lineup, a move which did not pay off.

Wellington were much better in the second half but they will have to improve immeasurably if they are to trouble league leaders Adelaide United on Friday at Adelaide, a city which has proven to be a graveyard for past Phoenix teams.

Wellington 2 (Chris Greenacre, Leo Bertos) Melbourne Heart 2 (John Aloisi (pen), Matt Thompson). Halftime: 1-2.

- NZPA

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