Wellington Phoenix missed a chance to regain first place in the Hyundai A-League but did close in on the frontrunners after drawing 0-0 away to Melbourne City on Sunday.
Seeking to respond to successive 3-0 losses at home in their last two matches, Ernie Merrick’s side had a Nathan Burns penalty saved and spurned some serviceable opportunities in the Round 25 clash at AAMI Park.
The hosts passed up plenty of good chances themselves in a frustrating but entertaining stalemate.
John van ‘t Schip’s men were already assured of a finals berth prior to the game courtesy of Perth Glory’s disqualification on Friday for breaching the salary cap, but the visitors will be disappointed at their failure to close in on what would be an historic first Premier’s Plate triumph for the New Zealand side.
Wellington finish the round in fifth place, one behind first-placed Melbourne Victory and Sydney FC, who are second.
WHAT THEY SAID
“It was pretty up and down. We started a bit shaky, a bit nervous perhaps but when we hit our straps there we looked good. The last couple of weeks were horrible to be fair so it’s a good way to bounce back and get a point at a tough place to come.” – Phoenix ‘keeper Glen Moss
“It was an open game, both teams had chances but obviously neither of us capitalised. All in all it was good to get a point. We take the positives out of it, we kept a clean sheet and we’re creating chances to score.” – City captain Patrick Kisnorbo
Wellington should have taken the lead in the 16th minute when they were awarded a penalty for Safuwan Baharudin’s foul on Louis Fenton. Burns though, who was otherwise excellent throughout the first half, sent the tamest of spot kicks straight at Tando Velaphi.
It wasn’t for a lack of trying that we didn’t witness any goals. City had 20 shots to the Phoenix’s 12, but a combination of poor finishing and good goalkeeping, particularly from Glen Moss, preserved what otherwise appeared an unlikely stalemate.
Jonatan Germano’s audacious attempt to lob Moss from long range and Robert Koren’s vicious effort from distance, tipped over by the goalkeeper, made us sit up and take notice as City made a fast, aggressive start to the match.
Germano, Koren and substitute David Williams all had great chances to break the deadlock after the break but either missed the target or found Moss unbeatable between the posts.
THE FINAL WORD
City’s next match is a dead rubber away to the Glory, whose irregularities mean they will be consigned to seventh place at the end of the regular season, while the Phoenix have a winnable game at home to the Central Coast Mariners.
Melbourne City: Tando Velaphi (GK), Kew Jaliens (Paulo Retre 62’), Connor Chapman, Patrick Kisnorbo, Safuwan Baharudin, Erik Paartalu, Jonatan Germano, Aaron Mooy, Robert Koren, Josh Kennedy (Jacob Melling 73’), Harry Novillo (David Williams 58’).
Wellington Phoenix: Glen Moss (GK), Louis Fenton, Michael Boxall, Andrew Durante, Emmanuel Muscat, Albert Riera, Roly Bonevacia (Kwabena Appiah 93′), Alex Rodriguez (Vince Lia 78’), Nathan Burns, Michael McGlinchey, Roy Krishna (Kenny Cunningham 73’).
Red cards: None
Yellow cards: Safuwan (14’), Jaliens (43’)
Conditions: 17 degrees, dry
Attendance: 6,720@AAMI Park