Wellington and Adelaide have defied inhuman heat to put on a four-goal thriller at Coopers Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
With the mercury hovering around 38 degrees Celsius in Adelaide, Phoenix and the Reds have played out an entertaining draw, with both sets of fans given plenty to admire from their teams.
It was an initially scratchy start for the visitors as an early turnover saw Sergio Cirio send through Ben Garuccio, but Glen Moss did well to snuff out the danger.
No such luck just moments later as a slight deflection redirected a thumping strike from Riley McGree past the in-form ‘keeper, allowing Adelaide to open the scoring in the 7th minute.
The Reds’ lead didn’t last long, after a moment of individual magic from Nix fullback Tom Doyle who weaved and slalomed his way through a host of Adelaide defenders, before drilling a fierce shot that surprised veteran Eugene Galekovic at his near post.
The players were forced into two drinks breaks per half, but it was Wellington who appeared to better handle the heat, as they enjoyed a 15-20 minute period of dominance.
The Reds then lifted their intensity with Cirio at the heart of Adelaide’s best moves. Moss again did well to smother at the feet of the Spaniard, before a terrific ball from Kosta Barbarouses sent a flying Roy Krishna clear.
With just Galekovic to beat the Fijian kept his cool, rolling a calm finish past the four-time A-League goalkeeper of the year for his ninth goal of the campaign.
Roly Bonevacia then sent a sharply curling freekick just over the Adelaide custodian’s crossbar before courageous Nix defending spared Moss’s blushes after a rare misplaced pass.
With half-time looming Barbarouses almost put Wellington right in the boxseat, but Galekovic recovered well to force the forward wide when he was through one-on-one.
In the second half Phoenix continued to carve open the Adelaide defence, with Shane Smeltz harrying Garrucio into an error before Barbarouses tested Galekovic.
The veteran then needed strong hands after another marauding Doyle run found Bonevacia free centrally, whose rifled shot was well beaten away.
Michael McGlinchey and Gui Finkler joined the fray just after the hour mark and it was the NZ international whose trickery almost created an opening for Krishna.
As Guillermo Amor looked increasingly frustrated on the Adelaide bench a brave block from Ryan Lowry denied Cirio an equaliser.
The Spaniard then fashioned another gilt-edged opportunity, but Iacopo La Rocca’s finish flicked Moss’ crossbar after a terrific cutback.
With just ten minutes of regulation time remaining Garuccio’s freekick was brilliantly saved by Moss, but it ricchocheted off his righthand upright and across the face of the goal, before Nikola Mileusnic reacted first to tuck home and level the scores.
With both sides pushing for a winner it was Cirio who almost stole the headlines, but Wellington’s No.1 made himself big and the Spaniard’s shot rolled wide.
2-2 the fulltime score as Phoenix maintain pressure on their top-six rivals.
Wellington Phoenix take on Western Sydney Wanderers in New Plymouth at Yarrow Stadium on Saturday 4 February, kick-off 7.35pm
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