Tim Brown celebrated his 100th Hyundai A-League performance with a goal that earned the Wellington Phoenix a point in a 1-1 draw with defending champions Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium tonight.
Written off by the pundits before they left Wellington, the Phoenix players showed the character and determination coach Ricki Herbert was demanding to frustrate an all-conquering Roar team that went into the match on the back of a 33-game unbeaten run.
Things looked ominous for Wellngton when Besart Berisha gave Brisbane the lead in the 12th minute with a header from a free kick that was harshly awarded against Nicky Ward on the edge of the Phoenix penalty area when he clearly took the ball in a tackle.
As usual Brisbane enjoyed a wealth of possession but the Phoenix defence coped well, though there were some anxious moments with good saves by Tony Warner and the woodwork coming to the rescue on one occasion.
In the 34th minute the 16,000-plus Suncorp crowd was stunned into silence when the Phoenix equalised with a superbly constructed and well taken goal.
Leo Bertos out on the right flank switched play with a wonderful long ball, Ward controlled it with a lovely first touch and squared it back across goal for Brown to slide into Michael Theoklitos- net.
There were some anxious moments in the second spell, but in the closing stages the Phoenix looked dangerous when they mounted counter attacks.
With Lucas Pantelis, Mirjan Pavlovic, Vince Lia, Paul Ifill and Jimmy Downey all unavailable through injury, Herbert suffered another blow when influential Spanish midfielder Dani Sanchez picked up a hip flexor injury in the warm up.
Sanchez- injury meant Daniel, who was listed on the bench after struggling with a slight hamstring injury all week, had to play and he did well to get through till late in the game when he was replaced by Niko Tsattalios.
Ben Sigmund went down with cramp late on and was replaced by Brent Griffiths but the Phoenix held firm till the end.
Captain Andrew Durante, who again led by example, said the Phoenix players were shattered.
“It is a really quiet bus,” Durante said. “The boys gave everything and we thoroughly deserved to get something from the game.
“Everyone did what they had to do. We had lost three in a row and yet apart from the Mariners game where we were under par we had been playing well.
“We don-t deserve to be where we are on the ladder and the lads wanted to show that. To get a point on a ground where most teams get blown away showed how determined we were.”
Herbert said he was very proud of his players.
“It was a big, big performance,” Herbert said.
“We scored a well-executed goal that we had worked on. We wanted to be able to switch play from one side to the other and Leo [Bertos] did that superbly.
“Just when I thought nothing else could go wrong Dani picked up the hip problem and with Daniel going off as well we now have seven out.
“Everyone had to step up, and boy did they do that.”
Brisbane Roar 1 (Besart Berisha), Wellington Phoenix 1 (Tim Brown). HT: 1-1.