A contentious offside ruling has denied Wellington Phoenix a memorable away point against the defending Champions and Premiers, after a battling performance in Sydney on Sunday night.
In a game few fancied the Phoenix to contest both sides created plenty of chances with the visitors maintaining their best ever scoring run after finding the back of the net for a 13th consecutive league game.
It was a lively start for the visitors as Roy Krishna made a bustling run down the left only to be clattered by Alex Wilkinson inside 60 seconds.
A whipped ball in from Michael McGlinchey was headed goalwards by Andrija Kaludjerovic but Sydney FC custodian Andrew Redmayne fumbled the shot, with Nix skipper Andrew Durante almost an unlikely first scorer.
Redmayne redeemed himself a minute later, punching away a Krishna effort before the hosts began to settle with Adrian Mierzejewski beginning to feature more prominently in combination with Alex Brosque and Bobo.
Returning All Whites Tom Doyle and Durante were preferred at centre back with Marco Rossi not fit and the pacy Scott Galloway selected at left back to try and minimise the speed of Polish international Mierzejewski.
Both All Whites prominent early, first Durante in the sixth minute clearing from Bobo, before Doyle denied the Pole a clean finish.
With the game in the balance Matt Ridenton fashioned a fine shooting change, but his curling effort in the 26th minute looped harmlessly wide, before skipper Brosque returned the favour at the other end.
The threat from Sydney was building, and they had a quickfire double inside five minutes. A Phoenix defender tackled Brosque just outside the box but the loose ball fell kindly to the Brazilian Bobo whose deft clipped effort spun off the heel of Daniel Mullen giving Keegan Smith no chance.
In the 34th minute the Sky Blues had a second – a rare goal from Michael Zullo after he thumped a loose ball from a headed clearance unstoppably past Smith.
If Phoenix felt aggrieved after their strong opening their Serbian marksman Kaludjerovic then gave home fans some hope in the shadow of half-time.
A long raking ball from Durante was chested down by Dario Vidosic, and Kaludjerovic showed no hesitation thumping a well-struck volley past Redmayne.
2-1 at half time with Sydney FC scoring with both their shots on target.
If the message from the sheds was to tighten up it was the worst possible start. Phoenix were slow to close down Luke Wilkshire and the fullback’s cross was inch-perfect for the Brazilian Bobo to nod home past Smith just four minutes in.
If there was a sense from home fans that the notoriously poor-travellers would just roll over however it appeared Phoenix had other ideas.
Darije Kalezic went to the bench introducing Ali Abbas and Adam Parkhouse for Mullen and Ridenton and inside a minute Wellington had pulled one back.
A terrific whipped ball from McGlinchey picked out Vidosic who flicked an excellent header that looped past Redmayne.
As the Phoenix pushed for an equaliser the game opened even further. Smith did well to push Jordy Buijs’ effort around the post before Parkhouse and Krishna combined but the cross evaded those in yellow and black.
Durante then succumbed to a late injury forcing Paracki to debutise at centre back. Matt Simon came on and made himself a customary nuisance fashioning several good chances for the hosts, but the biggest talking point came in the 87th minute.
A quick break from Wellington found Abbas in space down the left with the Sydney FC defence late to step up. With just Redmayne to beat and Hamish Watson in company centrally the Iraqi was denied by the linesman’s flag – an emotional homecoming denied for the former FC fan favourite, and the referee’s whistle denying the finish and sidelining any possible intervention by the Video Assistant Referee.
A show of resilience from the visitors but ultimately Wellington leaving empty-handed as Sydney FC pick up their second win of the campaign.