Wellington Phoenix’s 1-all draw with Brisbane meant different things to the two sides because of the fortunes of each to date. Those who have found negativity in the Phoenix “settling for a draw” or “parking the bus” need to remember the context.
The Phoenix were bottom of the league going into this game. Brisbane were runaway leaders and on a 33-match unbeaten streak. For the Phoenix, this was a good result. For Brisbane, it was a disappointing one.
The best way to judge context is by imagining whether each coach would have been happy with the eventual result if they were offered it before the match. Given everything that’s happened so far this season and his team’s dreadful away record, Ricki Herbert would certainly have taken the point. Ange Postecoglu, on the other hand, would be unhappy that his much-vaunted side couldn’t succumb the one propping up the ladder.
That’s consecutive weeks now the Roar haven’t been able to find a way past a stubborn opponent. Against nine-man Victory they huffed and puffed but couldn’t blow the house down and against an equally committed Phoenix they were also unable to gain access. It might be negative, and it might not allow you to beat them, but putting men behind the ball and doing shuttles between their skilful midfielders to deny them space seems to be the way to at least snatch a point from games against Brisbane.
The Roar are a superb footballing side but much as they completely dominated possession, they almost over-thought things in the penalty area. Keeping the ball isn’t – and never has been – their issue. It’s putting it in the net to win games that-s the problem at the moment.
As usual when Phoenix defend stoutly, skipper Andrew Durante was to the fore. His assuredness and astute reading of play mark him out as one of the best central defenders in the A-League and again he displayed his credentials in this match. It’s utterly perplexing that other centre-backs like Simon Colosimo, Chris Coyne, Michael Beauchamp and Jon McKain have been given opportunities in a Socceroos shirt and Durante hasn’t.
Tim Brown battled well. Leo Bertos showed flashes of his old self and Nick Ward was busy. Their combination for Brown’s goal was sumptuous; a lovely pass from Bertos, an exquisite touch and pass from Ward and tidy finish from Brown. It was a quality goal.
The key now will be to use this performance as a benchmark. The Phoenix may not have the player resources of the other A-League clubs but this showing proved they can scrap, battle and take points from the best teams in the league. Whether that-ll be enough to still be involved when the playoffs roll around in April remains to be seen.