Phoenix extend unbeaten run with had-fought draw in Melbourne

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Saturday, 29 December 2018, 7:21AM
Melbourne Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas denies Wellington Phoenix attacker Sarpreet Singh. Photo / Getty Images
Melbourne Victory keeper Lawrence Thomas denies Wellington Phoenix attacker Sarpreet Singh. Photo / Getty Images

Melbourne Victory 1
Wellington Phoenix 1

The Wellington Phoenix provided more evidence they are the real deal this season with a compelling performance in Melbourne last night.

The Victory have traditionally been tough to beat, particularly in Victoria - the Phoenix had a record of two wins and three draws from 17 away games against them before this round.

But Mark Rudan's side showed why they have climbed from ninth to fourth this month with a hard-fought draw in front of a crowd of more than 20,000 at AAMI Park.

The Phoenix are playing with a level of commitment and confidence recent incarnations have lacked, and the team are working hard for each other across the park.

David Williams opened the scoring with an excellent strike around the hour mark. Wellington won the ball inside Melbourne territory, Sarpreet Singh surged forward and played the ball left to Williams, who cut back in on his right foot and curled a well-placed shot into the top corner.

The lead lasted 15 minutes before Ola Toivonen side-footed in an equaliser from close-range, the Swede maintaining his record of producing a goal and/or assist in every A-League game he has played this season.

The Victory pressed hard for a late winner but the Phoenix held out the defending champions for a deserved point.

Wellington came into the game in rare good form, on the back of their first three-match winning run in almost four years.

The most recent victory, 4-1 against Brisbane, yesterday led to John Aloisi's departure after three-and-a-half years as Roar coach.

But the Victory's recent form has been even more impressive, with six straight wins before a draw in the Melbourne derby last Saturday.

Despite that, the Phoenix took the match to Melbourne, dominating territory for long periods in the first half, albeit without creating many clearcut scoring opportunities.

There were a handful of half-chances: Roy Krishna got on the end of a long ball inside the opening two minutes and rounded keeper Lawrence Thomas but was forced wide and couldn't get his shot on goal.

Williams headed a Liberato Cacace cross over the the bar and Singh, who again produced a lively display, put a free kick just wide.

Singh was played in superbly by Williams soon after but Thomas was out quickly to smother the chance.

Melbourne had the better chances but good defending and slightly wayward finishing kept the match scoreless for an hour.

The Victory were without Keisuke Honda for the second week in a row. Despite that, the injured Japanese marquee player is leading the race for the Alex Tobin Medal awarded to the A-League Player of the Year but in another indication of Wellington's improving profile, Krishna is second in the standings and Singh is third equal.

More performances like this and the Phoenix will continue to rehabilitate their reputation.

Wellington's next two fixtures are also on the road: in Adelaide next Saturday and in Sydney against Wanderers three days later on January 8.

Melbourne Victory 1 (Ola Toivonen 77)
Wellington Phoenix 1 (David Williams 62)
Halftime: 0-0

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