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Wednesday, November 02 2022
Wellington Phoenix strike late to earn draw against Melbourne City

Wellington Phoenix 2
Melbourne City 2

The Wellington Phoenix season might just have lift off, after an impressive revival to earn a 2-2 draw against Melbourne City on Sunday night.

All Whites striker Kosta Barbarouses scored a 90th minute equaliser to cap a stunning comeback, with two late goals to earn a point from nowhere.

It's the kind of result that could spark the Phoenix, who looked dead and buried after conceding twice in the first 34 minutes.

The Phoenix campaign has included some frustrating matches and that theme looked set to continue against the reigning A-League premiers, after they gave up two soft first-half goals, which left them with a mountain to climb.

Much of the first period was like watching a peak Jose Mourinho-style team. Melbourne City were often happy to let Wellington have possession but pressed formidably, capitalising on errors for their two goals. They were also physical, content to use tactical fouls, as the Phoenix struggled to build any momentum.

But to their credit, Wellington rebounded brilliantly after the interval, energised by some timely substitutes, with Bulgarian Bozhidar Kraev particularly prominent.

A beautiful strike from Sam Sutton in the 80th minute gave them hope, before Barbarouses continued his happy scoring knack against Melbourne City, calmly rolling his finish into the far corner.

It also ended a barren run for the Phoenix, who lost all 12 matches last season when they gave up the first goal.

Earlier, coach Ufuk Talay shuffled his deck considerably. David Ball, Yan Sasse, Ben Old, Nicholas Pennington and Callan Elliot were brought into the starting XI with Barbarouses, Oskar Zawada, Kraev, Steven Ugarkovic and Josh Laws relegated to the bench.

The Phoenix made an encouraging start, with early chances falling to Sutton and Ben Waine, though neither could hit the target. But an errant pass from the Phoenix saw Marco Tilio break away, with the referee judging his shot was blocked illegally by a lunging Tim Payne, as Sail dealt well with the follow-up. Jamie Maclaren coolly slotted his penalty, for his fifth goal of the season.

Wellington had to settle – and played some nice football – but self-destructed again, guilty of overplaying in tight areas, as Sasse was pickpocketed near halfway.

That left the Phoenix again exposed to the quick counter and a delightful ball found Tilio, who managed a neat finish past Sail.

Talay made early changes in the second half, with Barbarouses, Zawada and Kraev introduced for Waine, Sasse and Ball.

Kraev thought he had found a way back just after the hour – with a powerful header of a pinpoint Clayton Lewis free kick – but the tall Bulgarian was fractionally offside. Moments later a neat Kraev pass unlocked an opportunity for Zawada, but he slid his attempt narrowly wide.

The Phoenix were fortunate not to give up a second penalty – after a rash Scott Wootton challenge on Maclaren – though the referee decided not to overturn his original call, after being referred to the touchline by the VAR official. It looked the correct decision.

Sutton's goal gave the Phoenix a chance, with an unerring strike from the edge of the area, after a Phoenix corner was only half cleared.

Wellington were in the ascendancy from there and got their reward, with a clinical angled finish from Barbarouses, after a slide rule pass from Ben Old.

City finished the game with 10 men, after defender Thomas Lam picked up a second yellow, and were left hanging on to salvage a point.

Melbourne City 2 (Jamie Maclaren 16 pen, Marco Tilio 34)
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Sam Sutton 80, Kosta Barbarouses 90)

Posted by: AT 03:54 am   |  Permalink   |  Email