It is sometimes a tough ask to be a New Zealand team in an Australian competition, and on Sunday the Wellington Phoenix found everything going against them as they fought out a well-deserved 2-2 draw with Melbourne Heart at AAMI Stadium.
The Phoenix had to play for 56 minutes with 10 men after Ben Sigmund received a harsh second yellow card, had an obvious penalty appeal turned down early in the game, and then were stunned when referee Ben Williams gave the home side a dubious 62nd minute penalty that David Williams converted to make it 2-2.
The game had begun well for the Phoenix when Roy Krishna scored his first goal for the club in the sixth minute before Germano equalised in the 29th minute with a well-struck shot from just outside the penalty area.
The Phoenix were knocking the ball around well but their rhythm was disrupted when Sigmund received two yellow cards in a three-minute spell 11 minutes before the break.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick sacrificed Stein Huysegems to bring Matt Ridenton into the midfield at halftime, and the move paid dividends when Krishna and Tyler Boyd combined to put the visitors ahead in the 57th minute.
The Phoenix- joy was short lived when Harry Kewell, a shadow of the player he once was, went down easily in the box and earned a penalty five minutes later.
While disappointed not to have taken three points, Merrick was proud of the way his team performed in difficult circumstances.
“Results are never fair, you get what you fight for and we fought for that draw,” Merrick said.
“Had we had 11 players on the field I had a good feeling today that we would have won.
“When any team goes down to 10 men it doesn-t make a great spectacle though I suppose it was still exciting because there were chances at both ends.
“We were determined to go for the win even when we went down to 10 men. I could have gone to 4-4-1 but I went for 4-3-2.
“It isn-t a great result for either side when it comes to getting in the finals but it is still mathematically possible so we have to stay positive.”
Merrick said he hadn-t had the chance to look at the penalty claim early in the game that would have meant a red card for the Heart defender and a penalty to the Phoenix, though television replays showed that to be the case.