Brisbane Roar 0
Chalk this up as the just about most meritorious nil-all draw in the history of the Wellington Phoenix.
Missing as many of six first-choice players through injury and suspension, a tactical masterclass from Ernie Merrick's side frustrated table-toppers Brisbane at Westpac Stadium tonight.
The Roar had won four in a row heading into the encounter while the Phoenix were seeking their first victory in five games. And a quick look at the number of Phoenix players sitting in the stands gave no reason to suggestion that form guide would change.
But a well-drilled home side denied the second-highest scorers in the league, earning a point that did little to improve Wellington's position on the A-League ladder but did much to boost their morale.
The Phoenix remain in seventh and, with Roy Krishna set to miss the next three months, still have a fight on their hands to reach the finals. But with Merrick's influence and the same sort of discipline the players showed tonight, who knows?
Opting to eschew their normal possession-based approach, the Phoenix allowed the Roar plenty of ball but did their utmost to prevent their illustrious opposition from doing anything with it.
They belied all their absences by disrupting the Roar at almost every opportunity, pressuring the visitors in possession and foiling their attempts to play any football in the final third.
Defending with resolve and, when needed, desperation, they might have even unearthed a gem. With Sigmund sidelined through injury and set to retire following the season, Dylan Fox excelled on debut, proving strong in the tackle, showing good anticipation and recovering well whenever Brisbane stole half a yard.
He combined with the typically-obdurate Andrew Durante to anchor a defence that was truly breached on only a few occasions. Glen Moss made three good saves to snuff out a trio of attacks, while another golden opportunity came to nothing courtesy of an extraordinary change of heart from referee Stephen Lucas.
With Brisbane beginning to enjoy themselves in attack as the opening half progressed, the Phoenix first escaped when Thomas Broich's powerful header cannoned off the crossbar with Moss beaten. What happened next left both sides confused, though one was much happier than the other.
After Durante's elbow appeared to deflect away the rebound, Lucas pointed to the spot and left the Phoenix dismayed. Durante was pushed into the path of the ball, they argued, and for once those arguments were heard as Lucas changed his mind and allowed the Phoenix a reprieve following consultation with his linesman.
For all their defensive fortitude and welcome dose of fortune, the Phoenix had failed to create much going forward in the first half. Brisbane were continuing to look the likelier side in the second spell and there was a hint that Wellington were paying the price for all their high pressing, showing signs of fatigue before Merrick turned to the bench.
In addition to fresh legs, those substitutions saw the Phoenix threaten as consistently as they had all evening, with the introduction of the impressive Kwabena Appiah-Kubi stretching the game.
In the end, the Phoenix would have perhaps been disappointed they didn't walk away with all three points, though in stoppage time they again had Moss to thank for securing a share of the spoils.
Wellington Phoenix 0
Brisbane Roar 0