Wellington Phoenix 1
Brisbane Roar 1
The Wellington Phoenix have conceded a late equaliser to draw 1-1 with the Brisbane Roar at McDonald Jones Stadium.
In the quintessential game of two halves, the Phoenix dominated the first period and took a deserved 1-0 lead through Israeli striker Tomer Hemed, but spent the majority of the second half on the back foot, eventually succumbing to an 86th-minute equaliser from Brisbane substitute Golgol Mebrahtu.
The game ended in controversy with Wellington denied a possible penalty, the ball appearing to strike the hand of a Brisbane defender, but the VAR upheld the decision of referee Stephen Lucas, who waved away Wellington's protests. That incensed Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay who was involved in heated arguments with members of the Brisbane coaching staff and players after the final whistle.
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Talay spoke on the eve of the match about wanting to see more from Hemed. As such, he promoted his marquee signing to the starting side for the first time in the last six matches and he repaid the faith of his manager by scoring a second goal in as many games. It came courtesy of a Roar error at the end of a slick passing move from the Phoenix, with Brisbane captain Tom Aldred failing to clear a left-wing James McGarry cross, the ball falling to Hemed who stroked home from just inside the penalty area.
In torrential rain in the Hunter Valley, Wellington dominated first–half possession, stringing passes together and employing a high press without regularly testing Jamie Young in Brisbane's goal. The excellent Reno Piscopo combined well with both Hemed and Mexican attacker Ulises Davila and was at the heart of most of his side's best moments.
The best early chance fell to Davila who fired his shot wide after 13 minutes and Wellington had the ball in the net shortly afterwards, but Davila's shot had deflected off the hand of David Ball before finding its way past Young. At the other end, Phoenix goalkeeper Oli Sail was rarely troubled.
As expected from a side desperate to snap a six-game winless streak, Brisbane piled on the pressure in the second half, forcing Wellington back and launching wave after wave of attack. Sail was constantly called upon from open play and set-piece situations and a combination of his goalkeeping, last-ditch defending and a healthy slice of luck kept the Phoenix in front until Mebrahtu met a far-post cross to head home the equaliser with his first touch.
The Phoenix have a short turnaround before hosting the bottom-placed Melbourne Victory on Wednesday evening. In a boost, last season's captain Steven Taylor has exited quarantine and will be in contention to feature upon his return to the club after a stint playing in India.
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Hemed 42)
Brisbane Roar 1 (Mebrahtu 86)