A fantastic second-half performance as well as goals from Gui Finkler and Roy Krishna earned Wellington Phoenix a 2-2 draw against Western Sydney Wanderers at Mt Smart Stadium in Auckland on Saturday night.
Phoenix dominated the opening stages, but against the run of play it was Wanderers that went in front as Brendon Santalab slotted in from close range off a corner kick.
Wellington continued to play the better football for the first half and created a number of good chances that they just couldn’t finish off, while at the other end Glen Moss saved brilliantly to deny Western Sydney a second.
Phoenix were pushing hard to find an equaliser after the interval, but were undone on the counter attack as Mitch Nichols slotted in a Jack Clisby cross before the hour.
Five minutes later, the home side had the chance to hit back from the spot when Roy Krishna was brought down in the box. Finkler stepped up to slot home the penalty and make it 2-1 with his debut goal for the club.
Not long after the Wanderers earned a penalty of their own, but Dimas’ effort was expertly saved by Glen Moss.
In the 68th minute the pressure finally told as Adam Parkhouse’s cross to the backpost was headed back across goal and into the net by Krishna to earn Phoenix a 2-2 draw.
Jacob Tratt came close early on, when Gui Finkler swung in a corner to find Tratt’s head, but the right back narrowly put it over the bar.
Tratt again went close from a Finkler corner but the bullet of a header went wide.
Against the run of play the visitors hit the front when Santalab met a corner and shot pass Moss to give Wanderers the lead.
After the break, Western Sydney made it two when Nichols collected a well-timed ball behind Phoenix’s back four and scored from close range.
Not long after Phoenix were awarded a penalty after Krishna was brought down in the box. Finkler scored comfortably to celebrate his first goal in Wellington colours.
Ninety seconds later Phoenix had a penalty given against them after Andrew Durante was adjuged to have fouled his opponent. Moss however guessed right and saved the effort from Dimas.
The save further galvanized Wellington and after an intricate move on the edge the box, Parkhouse delivered a perfectly flighted cross to the far post that Krishna headed in to make it 2-2.
Interim Head Coaches Chris Greenacre and Des Buckingham were ultimately pleased with the team’s reaction to going down two goals.
“It was an entertaining game for everybody. It was end to end, both teams were quite open and I think Glen Moss has pulled off a couple of great saves and we’ve created chances as well, so delighted to get the point from the game,” Greenacre said.
“The boys showed great character to get back into it, because I think it was the first we’ve done it in quite a long time.”
There was some frustration however that the side couldn’t get their passing game into full gear.
“We’re trying to build a possession-based game, get out fullbacks forward and we struggle to do that if the game gets broken up,” Buckingham said.
“We understand we need to be better on the ball, but at the end of the game there’s 29 fouls against and that just breaks the game up and stops us doing that little bit.”
The side will now prepare for the meeting with Newcastle Jets away from home on Boxing Day.