Phoenix dominate but forced to share points

IT was a case of one competition point gained but two lost for the Wellington Phoenix when they drew 1-1 with Perth Glory in their Hyundai A-League encounter at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.

Before a crowd of 6362, the Phoenix finished the stronger after coming from behind to snare a valuable competition point, despite having shaded the visitors for much of the game.

It was important for the Phoenix to gain some momentum after their three-match winning streak was abruptly halted last week in Adelaide, and to all intents and purposes that was achieved – but on balance they were worthy of three points.

Both sides started the round 15 encounter tentatively, with the Phoenix pressing but falling short in the final third. It was defender Manny Muscat that finally troubled the goalkeeper for the first time in the 12th minute, his looping nudge from distance easily taken by Perth-s Tando Velaphi.

Phoenix front man Leo Bertos forced Velaphi into saving with a strike on goal in the 20th minute, the opening period marked by willingness from the visitors to absorb the early pressure and frustrate an expectant home crowd.

The lively Bertos was on hand minutes later to send a searching cross into the penalty area but midfielder Tim Brown-s strike went high. Super striker Shane Smeltz then had Velaphi stretching when his 30m drive from centrefield went just wide of the custodian-s right hand post on the half hour.

However, for all their endeavour the home side was forced into the changing rooms at the break with the scoreline at 0-0.

Perth came closest to breaking the deadlock in the 52nd minute when the fleet-footed Nikita Rukavytsya hit Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss- crossbar from six yards and in front of goal. Moments later Smeltz repaid the compliment when his initial close range strike was partially stopped by Velaphi and the Phoenix marksman-s follow-up rattled the crossbar.

Phoenix defender Ben Sigmund produced some fine defensive work to track down and deny Rukavytsya, who was heading in on goal. From the resulting corner Moss was forced to climb high to take under pressure.

A hobbling Sigmund, after an impressive display, was replaced by Karl Dodd in the 68th minute as coach Ricki Herbert looked to maintain the lift in tempo from the home side after the break. That attacking intent was reinforced with Daniel replacing fellow midfielder Michael Ferrante minutes later.

It was Perth that opened the scoring, against the run of play, in the 75th minute when Eugene Dadi clinically finished from close range after the Phoenix failed to clear a bobbling ball in their penalty area.

The goal stung the Phoenix into action, the home side pushing forward with greater urgency. The pressure eventually paid off and they returned to level terms seven minutes later when Daniel-s delightful, curling left-foot strike was superbly parried by Velaphi but only as far as Brown, who headed home from in front of goal.

Velaphi saved a competition point for Perth in the 88th minute when he tipped a Bertos midfield thunderbolt that was goal bound on to his crossbar.