Soccer: Phoenix and Mariners battle to draw

By Daniel Richardson

Dani Sanchez holds off the defence of Trent Sainsbury of the Mariners. Photo / Getty Images
Dani Sanchez holds off the defence of Trent Sainsbury of the Mariners. Photo / Getty Images

Dani Sanchez headed the Wellington Phoenix to an unlikely 1-1 draw against the Central Coast Mariners at Westpac Stadium this evening.

After looking out of the contest for most of the second spell, a beautifully-directed Benjamin Totori cross found Sanchez in the box who restored parity to the scoreline for the Phoenix with only seven minutes left on the clock.

A Daniel McBreen goal only moments before half-time appeared to have wrapped up the points for an organised Mariners side who were resolute on defence throughout the contest.

Following a bullet-like shot from Tomas Rogic, Phoenix goalkeeper Mark Paston made a sharp save but McBreen was first to pounce on the scraps as he netted from close range to continue his bumper season.

Wellington have come under increasing pressure in recent weeks to play a more attacking brand of football as fans and even the owners have voiced their concern about the side's style of play.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert took the bold step of benching import forward Stein Huysegems for today's game and handed 17-year-old Tyler Boyd his first start of the season.

Boyd was lively throughout the game and although no clear chances fell his way he looks a strong prospect for the future.

Sadly only a woeful crowd of only 5961 were on hand to witness the game despite the sunny conditions in the capital.

Eventually, Boyd was replaced by Huysegems as Herbert let the former Belgian international stretch his legs for the final 15 minutes.

The Phoenix's substitutes brought energy to the side who looked tired mid-way through the second spell and midfielder Alex Smith clocked plenty of metres in his short spell on the pitch.

Wellington finished the hungrier of the two sides but despite a weight of possession they couldn't find a way to nab an injury-time winner.

The result would have been disappointing for the league-leading Mariners who were the better of the sides for a majority of the game as they gave the Phoenix few clear opportunities.

The Phoenix's next game is against the Melbourne Heart at the Cake Tin on Thursday evening.

Central Coast Mariners 1 (Daniel McBreen 45)
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Dani Sanchez 83)
HT: 1-0

- APNZ

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