Experience from Roar’s veteran forwards has mitigated an excellent start by Wellington Phoenix in a game that would have delighted neutrals but left home fans aggrieved to see it finish 3-3 at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.
Wellington have made a habit of starting sharply under Darije Kalezić but even the seasoned Dutchman was perhaps not ready for the blistering start from his chargers.
Phoenix took the lead inside 90 seconds after the pace of Roy Krishna saw him get round Luke DeVere, he found Dario Vidosic who picked out Andrija Kaludjerovic at the far post and the former Roar striker fired home an excellent looping header.
Wary perhaps of the early goal and then quick response last home game against Adelaide United, Phoenix drew back a little – but both sides were guilty of wastefulness in possession for the next ten minutes.
Tom Doyle, starting at left centre half with skipper Andrew Durante ruled not quite ready to return, then rose well from a Michael McGlinchey corner, his connection was strong but it drifted to the right of Theo’s post.
If Roar thought they were finding a toe-hold in the game Krishna had other ideas. The flying Fijian was afforded too much room and in the 17th minute he struck a belting drive from outside the box that flew past Theo at his near post.
Three minutes later it was the Fijian again in the thick of it; he was found well by Goran Paracki and drilled an excellent ball across the face for a sliding Kaludjerovic to tuck home at the far post.
Three goals inside 20 minutes and Nix faithful might have been left rubbing their eyes.
Scott Galloway limped off injured and headed straight down the tunnel after 25 minutes with Dylan Fox coming on, before Krishna showed his defensive skills tracking back to prevent Jade North from getting on a free ball inside the box.
Wellington ruffled Theo’s net a fourth time in the 35th minute, but McGlinchey was adjudged offside by the VAR.
Young Kiwi Dane Ingham made his first appearance off the bench for the Roar as DeVere succumbed to injury and the fullback’s first contribution was almost to tee up his fellow All White McGlinchey, but the diminutive No.10 failed to connect cleanly.
Roar were beginning to pose more of a threat as the half wore on, with Brett Holman at the heart of most attacks. His point-blank header off a Jack Hingert cross was stopped by an instinctive save from Keegan Smith, but Massimo Maccarone was first on the scene to tap home.
A lifeline after a half in which the visitors were very much second best, 3-1 the half-time score.
After the break it was a quiet start from both sides, Roar neither creating clear chances and Phoenix content to hold their lead.
McGlinchey looked to pull the strings for the home side before a lunging tackle from Eric Bautheac sparked a mini-melee in the 53rd minute and seemed to fire the visitors.
Ingham was fortunate to go unpunished for a tackle from behind on Krishna just outside the Roar box, before Holman used his experience to draw a free kick in a useful area 65 minutes in.
Ben Khalfallah shot directly and Smith saved onto the post but it fell invitingly for Avram Papadopoulos to poke home from two metres.
In the 73rd minute Phoenix had the best chance of the second half after another perfect delivery from McGlinchey presented Kaludjerovic with a chance at a hat-trick, but the Serbian’s glancing header was too faint and pushed wide of the post.
In the 82nd minute a moment of contention as Papadopoulos went down in the box after a coming-together with Matthew Ridenton. The veteran centre back earning the whistle and Maccarone duly dispatched for 3-3.
A disappointing end to a scintillating beginning but Phoenix maintain their unbeaten run of five games at home in Wellington.