Wellington Phoenix head coach Ufuk Talay has been left with a feeling of déjà vu after their final home game of the Isuzu UTE A-League regular season.
The Phoenix have conceded a late goal from a set piece to draw 2-2 with Brisbane Roar at Eden Park in Auckland.
After a lacklustre first half showing where the teams traded penalties, Brazilian midfielder Yan Sasse gave the Nix the lead early in the second half and they had multiple opportunities to score a third goal, but couldn’t find the back of the net.
David Ball was the unluckiest of the Wellington players rattling both Brisbane posts with one shot before striking the woodwork again moments later.
“I think it’s been a story of the last few weeks to be honest,” Talay told media post-match. “We’ve created good opportunities [and] not capitalised on the moments when we’ve been on top with the ball.
“I think if we found a third goal the game would have been done and dusted.
“The ball hits both posts, rolls across the line and doesn’t go in. Sometimes that’s the way football is, but I think we created enough chances to win the game in the second half.
“First one for me was a definite penalty that we conceded and the second one is a soft set piece that we don’t deal with.
“We work hard to create opportunities and score goals and we end up giving up sloppy goals again.”
The Phoenix remain fifth on the ladder, but are now level on points with sixth-placed Sydney FC, who beat Perth Glory 4-1 on Sunday evening, and only three points clear of the chasing pack with two rounds remaining.
“We definitely have to win one of the two games. We’ve got two very tough away games against Western Sydney and then Macarthur.
“We’ll go there (to Western Sydney) and make sure we do everything possible to try to get three points and once we get through that we’ll look at the game after that.
“We’ve got a short turnaround playing on Friday night so we’ll make sure the boys recover, prepare and get them ready for that game.”
Ufuk Talay made four changes to the XI which started the 4-1 defeat to Melbourne City on Easter Monday, including a new centre back pairing.
Nikko Boxall was named to make his first start for the Phoenix alongside a fit-again Scott Wootton, with Tim Payne shifting out to right back in place of Callan Elliot. Talay also made changes in midfield, with Clayton Lewis and Kosta Barbarouses replacing Alex Rufer and Bozhidar Kraev respectively.
The Nix found themselves behind inside 10 minutes, when Sasse conceded a penalty and Roar midfielder Jay O’Shea converted from the spot for his sixth goal in as many games.
Wellington struggled to respond with Brisbane frustrating the hosts for long periods.
It wasn’t until the 25th minute that the Phoenix managed to register a shot at goal, when Oskar Zawada struck an effort from the top of the box and it deflected out for a corner.
Sam Sutton called Jordan Holmes into action shortly after the half hour mark, with the Roar ‘keeper doing well to keep out a thunderous shot from the Nix fullback.
Moments later Ball won Wellington a penalty, with Jez Lofthouse, who was fouled for the Brisbane spot kick, this time committing the foul at the other end of Eden Park. Zawada stepped up, sent Holmes the wrong way and tucked the ball into the right corner of the net.
The Roar came within centimetres of restoring their lead in the 39th minute when Henry Hore smashed the crossbar after finding a bit of space in the Phoenix box.
The Nix too had their chances before halftime, with Sasse having two opportunities to make amends for giving away a penalty.
The Brazilian forced a good save from Holmes, who tipped his shot around the post in the 43rd minute and the Roar goalkeeper made a more comfortable save seconds later.
Despite the entertaining finish to the first half it remained level at the break.
Talay made a change at halftime, bringing on Elliot in place of Boxall and moving Payne back into the heart of the Wellington defence.
The second half started how the first half finished, with goalscoring opportunities for both sides.
Ball burst into the Brisbane box in the 48th minute and produced a tantalising cross, but it just evaded Zawada.
Moments later Sail made his first save of the second half, dealing well with a shot from Lofthouse from the left side of the box.
Sasse put the Phoenix in front in fine fashion in the 56th minute, shooting past Holmes after some clever interplay with Barbarouses and Zawada put him through on goal.
Sail was called into action a couple of minutes later to keep the Nix in the lead. He produced a great save to tip an O’Shea shot around his right-hand post after the Roar midfielder broke into the box.
Holmes made a top save himself midway through the second half to deny Sasse after his first effort was well blocked by the desperate Brisbane defence.
Holmes’ goal led a charmed life in the 70th and 71st minutes, with Ball playing pinball with his posts.
He struck the right post with his first shot, which also hit the left post without crossing the line, and the Roar were able to scramble clear. Seconds later Ball was denied by the left post.
Sutton too came close to scoring Wellington’s third shortly after, smashing a right-footed shot just wide of the right-hand post after the ball fell to him at the top of the box from a corner.
The Phoenix were punished for their missed opportunities with Brisbane defender Scott Neville heading home from a corner in the 82nd minute to level the scores.
The Nix pressed for a match-winner and Sasse had a chance to reclaim all three points in the second minute of time added on when Sutton delivered a measured left-wing cross. Unfortunately for the Brazilian and Wellington his header was off target and the Roar held on for a draw.
The Wellington Phoenix will return to the capital on Monday to prepare for Friday night’s match against the Wanderers in Sydney.
Wellington Phoenix: 20. Oli SAIL (gk) (c), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC, 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES, 9. Oskar ZAWADA (11. Bozhidar KRAEV 81st), 10. David BALL, 15. Nikko BOXALL (17. Callan ELLIOT 46th), 19. Sam SUTTON, 23. Clayton LEWIS (14. Alex RUFER 90+1), 31. Yan SASSE.
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 12. Lucas MAURAGIS, 13. Nicholas PENNINGTON, 24. Oskar VAN HATTUM.
Brisbane Roar: 23. Jordan HOLMES (gk), 2. Scott NEVILLE, 5. Thomas ALDRED (c), 11. Jez LOFTHOUSE (3. Jordan COURTNEY-PERKINS 69th), 12. Taras GOMULKA, 13. Henry HORE, 15. Noah SMITH (28. Joseph KNOWLES 69th), 19. Jack HINGERT, 22. Stefan SCEPOVIC (17. Carlo ARMIENTO 85th), 26. Jay O’SHEA, 27. Kai TREWIN.
Unused substitutes: 1. Macklin FREKE, 7. Rahmat AKBARI, 10. Nikola MILEUSNIC, 21. Marcel CANADI.
26. Jay O’SHEA (Brisbane Roar) – 8th pen
9. Oskar ZAWADA (Wellington Phoenix) – 35th pen
31. Yan SASSE (Wellington Phoenix) – 56th
2. Scott NEVILLE (Brisbane Roar) – 82nd
12. Taras GOMULKA (Brisbane Roar) – yellow – 40th
2. Scott NEVILLE (Brisbane Roar) – yellow – 43rd
5. Thomas ALDRED (Brisbane Roar) – yellow – 46th
10. David BALL (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 67th
19. Jack HINGERT (Brisbane Roar) – yellow – 90+4