Soccer: Phoenix held at home

By Kris Shannon

Nick Fitzgerald of the Mariners controls the ball under pressure from Albert Riera of the Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images.
Nick Fitzgerald of the Mariners controls the ball under pressure from Albert Riera of the Phoenix. Photo / Getty Images.

Wellington Phoenix 1
Central Coast Mariners 1

The winning streak of the Wellington Phoenix last night came to an end, held to a 1-1 draw at home by the Central Coast Mariners.

A point against the reigning champions is far from a poor result but the Phoenix would have wanted - and perhaps expected - more after running up three victories on the trot.
But Kenny Cunningham's equaliser on the stroke of halftime was all the home side produced, with former Phoenix goalkeeper Liam Reddy barely required to make a save.

And it could have been worse for the Phoenix had Daniel McBreen - last season's golden boot - not blazed over the bar from the penalty spot. That chance was one of few in the second half, with the Phoenix the only side attempting to force the result but unable to produce any real opportunities.

The Phoenix were the better side in the second spell but weren't as assured as they have been in recent weeks.

In fact, they played better football during last month's 1-0 loss to the Mariners at North Sydney Oval.

The hosts would have considered themselves fortunate to head to halftime level, after 45 minutes which could be described as uneven at best.

The home side struggled in possession, manufactured little and rarely tested the Mariners' defence, with only a speculative strike from Jeremy Brockie to show for the first 20 minutes.

By that point Central Coast were ahead, with Matt Simon scoring his first for the Mariners since an unhappy spell in South Korea. It was a well-worked goal, with Mitchell Duke and Nick Fitzgerald combining well, but Ben Sigmund and Andrew Durante were probably guilty of being too close together as they allowed Simon to fire home.

Ahead and away from home, the champions seemed content to let their out-of-sorts opposition do much of the running, making for a dull half. But the Phoenix sparked to life with only 60 seconds left, with Cunningham netting a fine equaliser.

The Cost Rican had just produced the best moment for his side, getting to the byline but finding the near post blocked by Liam Reddy, before skipping around Storm Roux and slotting a left foot strike just inside the far post.

The goal appeared to boost the Phoenix as they started the second much improved, with more energy and movement off the ball seeing them dominate proceedings. For all their possession, though, it was the Mariners who enjoyed the first chance to go break the deadlock, with McBreen sending a free header wide after Roux picked him out.

If that miss was bad, worse was to come from McBreen. Glenn Moss didn't need to bring down Trent Sainsbury, with the defender heading away from goal, but the goalkeeper was let off the hook when McBreen blasted the resulting penalty over the bar.

And, with the last clear opportunity of the game, Moss was again called to action late on, producing a brilliant save from close range when Anthony Caceres seemed certain to score.

Wellington Phoenix (Kenny Cunningham 45)
Central Coast Mariners (Matt Simon 16)
HT: 1-1

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