IT WAS scrappy but both the Wellington Phoenix and Melbourne Heart made a point in their Hyundai A-League match at Westpac Stadium today.
The 2-2 draw in front of 5211 fans in a windy and cool Wellington ensured the Phoenix set a new mark – 24 – for most consecutive games unbeaten at the same venue.
The new mark betters that set by Sydney United in the old National Soccer League.
For the Heart it reinforced their solid start to their first Hyundai A-League campaign and followed their derby win over the Victory.
The competition point kept both sides firmly mid-table.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert opted for a three-man defensive formation at the back, with World Cup hero Mark Paston, fresh from international starts against Honduras and Paraguay, donning the goalkeeping gloves ahead of the equally impressive Danny Vukovic.
The home side got off to the perfect start when in the sixth minute striker Chris Greenacre received a delightful through ball from Manny Muscat in central midfield, his crafted strike sent beyond Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton and inside the right-hand post.
Muscat turned provider eight minutes later, but this time for the Heart after his late challenge brought down Adrian Zahra inside the penalty area. John Aloisi was on the spot to strike the ball low to the left of Paston to level the scores.
Both sides failed to trouble the goalmouth till the 33rd minute, when Paul Ifill sent a close-range header just beyond Bolton-s right-hand post. The elevation in blood pressure sparked the Heart into taking the lead three minutes later when Matt Thompson latched on to loose ball on the edge of the penalty area, beat his marker Ben Sigmund with a back flick and placed the ball with relative ease past Paston.
Coach Herbert made two changes to start the second stanza, striker Mirjan Pavlovic and midfielder Vince Lia replacing Nick Ward and Jade North. The Phoenix lifted the tempo and were rewarded near the hour mark when a seemingly innocuous back flick from Muscat found Leo Bertos on the flank and 20m from goal. However, Bertos- curling shot was horribly misjudged by Bolton – the dipping inside the visiting custodian for the equaliser.
Neither side was then able to fashion an opportunity to take maximum points from the game, the result a fair reflection of the balance of play.
The Phoenix next face a difficult away assignment against competition leaders Adelaide United on Friday, October 22.