Wellington Phoenix 2
Western Sydney Wanderers 2
The Wellington Phoenix have come from behind to earn a share of the points in a pulsating 2-2 A-League draw with the Western Sydney Wanderers in Wollongong.
The game was highlighted by three goals in eight thrilling second-half minutes, with the Phoenix losing their 1-0 halftime lead to fall behind 2-1, before Louis Fenton's equaliser earned them a share of the points.
Not known for tinkering significantly with his side, Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay made five changes from the eleven that started last weekend's loss to Central Coast. Ben Waine replaced the suspended David Ball in attack while Liam McGing stepped into central defence to cover Luke DeVere's injury-enforced absence. Attacker Mirza Muratovic, fullback Fenton and goalkeeper Oliver Sail were also promoted, meaning the starting side featured seven Kiwis, equalling the club record for an A-League match.
Waine played furthest forward with Muratovic, Ulises Davila and Reno Piscopo slightly less advanced and it was Davila, who enjoyed a standout evening, who created the opening goal after just nine minutes. Receiving the ball 30 metres from goal, the Mexican turned swiftly and fed Muratovic who didn't have to break stride as he closed in on goal. While he was denied at the first attempt by Wanderers goalkeeper Daniel Margush, the young Australian had enough composure to neatly tuck away the rebound.
The lead was nearly doubled shortly afterwards when the excellent Piscopo lashed a fierce half-volley against the post. At the other end, Sail – playing his first A-League game since April 2019 – got down smartly to deny Kwame Yeboah and produced an even better save to parry another goal-bound effort from the same player in the shadows of halftime.
The visitors upped their energy levels in the second half and pushed hard for an equaliser, but Wellington held firm, soaking up pressure and creating the occasional opening themselves.
However, Sail was finally beaten with 20 minutes to go, Yeboah heading home from close-range after a well-worked Western Sydney free-kick. Waine had the ball in the net a short time later, but was denied by the assistant referee's flag, before Bruce Kamau met a perfectly weighted left-wing cross to put the Wanderers ahead.
But the Phoenix bounced back quickly, Alex Rufer heading a precise Clayton Lewis free-kick back across goal with Fenton rising highest to divert a clever header past Margush.
Both sides pushed hard for a winner, with the Phoenix having a confident penalty shout waved away, but eventually the points were shared.
Wellington face a quick turnaround, visiting bottom side Melbourne Victory on Wednesday night.
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Muratovic 9, Fenton 79)
Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Yeboah 71, Kamau 76)