WELLINGTON Phoenix FC have begin their tour of China with an excellent 2-2 draw with Chinese Super League side Tianjin Teda in Tianjin tonight.
Goals to Tim Brown and Ben Sigmund saw the visitors take a 2-0 lead into the halftime break before Tianjin drew level through two late goals.
Phoenix head coach Ricki Herbert was impressed with the efforts of his men, who only arrived in China on Friday after the marathon journey from Wellington.
“The conditions were very hot and humid and that told towards the end of the match,” Herbert said.
“We started very, very well and had them under a lot of pressure and were very comfortable, but it was clear we were tiring somewhat as the clock wound down, and Tianjin were able to take advantage.
“Still, this was a very pleasing result and great preparation for the season ahead. We were able to give everyone in the squad some game-time against a very competitive top-flight side and that will be very beneficial for us.”
The Phoenix started brightly and early pressure resulted in the opening goal when Leo Bertos- 14th-minute free kick was turned back by striker Chris Greenacre to Brown, who smashed his shot from the six-yard box past the Tianjin keeper.
The visitors- second also came from a set-piece, with Bertos again the provider in the 36th minute. Bertos- corner was met by defender Sigmund, who nodded the ball in on the near post.
Herbert emptied his bench throughout the second half to ensure all squad members – including trial striker Anderson Potty, who replaced Greenacre in the 68th minute – got playing time.
But the sapping conditions took a toll on the Phoenix and Tianjin opened their account in the 74th minute from the penalty spot before levelling the scores with 10 minutes left.
Herbert said the Phoenix were now looking forward to their second match of the tour, against Guangzhou Pharmaceuticals on Tuesday, with real confidence.
“Of course there are things we need to work on but I-m really pleased with this performance in what were very difficult conditions. The key thing for us is to test ourselves against good opposition and we-ll get another shot at refining things further against Guangzhou on Tuesday night.”
The Phoenix will return from China via Dubbo in New South Wales, where they will play Hyundai A-League rivals the Central Coast Mariners in another warm-up match on July 25. That match will most likely be the Phoenix-s final pre-season outing before they begin their Hyundai A-League 2009/10 campaign away to the Newcastle Jets on August 9.
TIANJIN TEDA V WELLINGTON PHOENIX
Tianjin Teda 2
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Tim Brown 14-, Ben Sigmund 36-)