A FAST-FINISHING Wellington Phoenix was held to a 1-1 draw by Perth Glory in an exciting Hyundai A-League 2009/10 encounter at Westpac Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
In the end the home side was unlucky not to take the full three competition points after peppering the visitors- goal in the final minutes but denied by Perth custodian Tando Velaphi. The round 14 draw extended the home side-s unbeaten run at home to 13 matches and kept them mid-table and well in the playoffs hunt.
Played in sunny, balmy conditions before a crowd of 6930, the home side was stung by a 69th-minute free kick from Wayne Srhoj before Paul Ifill, fresh from signing on for another two years with the club, equalised with eight minutes remaining to ensure a share of the spoils.
After a tentative opening stanza the game came to life in the 15th minute when Phoenix goalkeeper Reece Crowther was forced to save low to his left the first shot on goal in anger. Soon after Ifill was yellow carded by referee Matthew Gillett for kicking the ball away and striker Costa Barbarouses sent a right-foot strike just wide of Velaphi-s left-hand post.
It was end-to-end action for the remainder of the first half, the Phoenix using width to give Ifill and Daniel space and time to create opportunities in the attacking third. But it wasn-t all one-way traffic, with Perth finding space of their own in and around the Phoenix penalty area but being repelled by dogged, determined defence.
Crowther was engaged again in the 40th minute when called upon to get down low and smother a low cross in his six yard box. Phoenix frontman Chris Greenacre was denied minutes later inside Perth-s penalty area by a defender-s foot before the visitors closed out the half when captain Jacob Burns rattled Crowther-s crossbar with a solid strike.
On the resumption the Phoenix continued their search for an opening goal, midfielder Tim Brown shooting wide from distance and then Daniel forcing a save from Velaphi with his 20m effort. Phoenix captain Andrew Durante couldn-t quite get enough on a close range header from a Daniel cross in the 64th minute as the Perth defence held.
The home crowd was silenced in the 69th minute when Srhoj delivered a tremendous 25m centrefield free kick beyond Crowther to break the deadlock.
It took the Phoenix till the 82nd minute to draw level, but it was done in style as substitute Adrian Caceres- strike was deflected by Velaphi into the path of Ifill, who coolly slotted the ball into the net for his fifth goal of the season.
The Phoenix continued to push for the winner in the closing minutes, Troy Hearfield and Caceres on two occasions forcing Velaphi into good saves.
The home side wore black armbands following the death of club stalwart Murray Naylor on Friday. Naylor played a pivotal role in helping owner Terry Serepisos launch the club in Wellington in 2007/08.
The Phoenix-s next match is away to the Newcastle Jets on 22 November.