Wellington twice took a two goal lead at QBE Stadium in front of an appreciative Auckland crowd but a high flying Perth ensured the points were shared.
Wellington Phoenix’s co-coaches Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre could be forgiven for being aggrieved they finished this game with just one point after their side compiled some of the best attacking play fans have seen this season.
The home side started very brightly and twice enjoyed a two-goal buffer but Perth Glory’s never-say-die attitude say them pull their way back into the contest, making a great spectacle for the neutrals but a nervy one for both coaches.
After a scrappy first few minutes it was Phoenix who settled first and enjoy the lion’s share of the action in the opening fifteen minutes.
Liam Reddy was pressed into action early to deny Kosta Barbarouses after a lovely interchange in the build up between Shane Smeltz and Roy Krishna.
Gui Finkler, back from two weeks paternity leave found Andrew Durante well with a set piece but his headed effort across goal couldn’t quite find Smeltz.
Perth were having a torrid time on both flanks as Barbarouses’ pace again posed problems. A strong direct run from the All White saw the Perth defence retreat – he found Krishna who in turn found Finkler who lashed home a thumping shot past Liam Reddy at his near post.
In the 15th minute Perth were almost further in arrears as a missprung offside trap failed to catch Barbarouses – he did well to time his run, but his shot on goal was deflected behind by some desperate scrambling defence.
A second goal was fair reward for Wellington’s early dominance and in the 25th minute Smeltz did brilliantly to get front side of Dino Djulbic before playing off to Krishna who drilled a tracer bullet shot past a hapless Reddy.
As the half progressed Phoenix appeared to lose some of their attacking intent, sitting deep and inviting Perth upon them. Lethal marksman Andy Keogh needed no invitation and finished well off a direct ball to halve the deficit in the 34th minute.
A nervy last ten minutes then followed, but in the shadow of half-time Phoenix attacked again with purpose – Finkler’s trickery crafting half an opening for Alex Rodriguez, but the Glory defence regrouped well to go in the sheds just one behind.
If Kenny Lowe had given the hairdryer at half-time it didn’t have the required effect as inside 90 seconds of the restart Phoenix restored their two-goal cushion with Barbarouses curling home an inch-perfect strike that clipped this inside of Reddy’s post en route to nestling in the goal.
Wellington continued to press and quick feet from Finkler saw the Brazilian felled about ten metres outside the eighteen yard box. If it looked perfect dead ball territory the Perth wall stood tall blocking Finkler’s effort.
Roly Bonevacia came on for Finkler, as the game entered one of those periods of ebbs and flows. But again Perth Glory lifted, with fine work from Joshua Risdon picking out Adam Taggart for a far post header to make it 3-2.
Joel Chianese entered the fray and made an immediate menace of himself with his pace, poking a dangerous ball across the face of goal in the 71st minute.
Wellington were temporarily down to ten as Fox limped off injured, while Diego Castro fired over a dangerous freekick. A tired tackle from Krishna brought down the flying Chianese and the Spaniard maestro went one better with his next delivery.
With the scored levelled at 3-3 a frenetic last few minutes ensued with both sides squandering gilt-edged chances to take all three points.
Post-game Head Coach Des Buckingham was understandably disappointed but reflected on the continued positive reaction from the playing group.
“Whenever you put yourself in a position where you’re two goals in front, especially at home, it’s disappointing to come away with a point.
“But I think it’s important we put it in the context of two tough games. I think if you’d have said prior to the Brisbane game that we’d come away from the next two games with four points, everybody at this football club would have taken it.
“We spoke about building some momentum and we showed again some good signs that these players can play.”