The Wellington Phoenix might have been without five of their top players but no-one would have guessed it as they drew 2-2 with an in-form Brisbane Roar in a pulsating encounter at Westpac Stadium on Sunday night.
It would have been even better for the home fans had Jamie Young not pulled off a world-class save to deny Nathan Burns in the 88th minute.
Burns struck his shot perfectly but Young managed to get enough of a touch on it to divert it on to the underside of the crossbar from where the ball bounced down and to safety.
It took the Phoenix a few minutes to settle into their stride but in the opening exchanges, Logan Rogerson and Monty Patterson, were bright and eager as the home side made a strong start and the Brisbane defence blocked three shots in quick succession in the 26th minute.
With the game scoreless at halftime Brisbane started the second half brighter and took the lead in the 50th minute through Brett Holman who volleyed home after an inch-perfect cross from Massimo Maccarone.
The visitors lead didn’t last long however with Andrija Kaludjerovic slotting home after being put in behind the visitors’ defence three minutes later.
If that wasn’t enough to get the home fans out of their seats, 11 minutes later the Phoenix were in front with Burns picking out Rogerson with a perfect cross that the youngster headed home with aplomb.
The home side’s lead lasted only three minutes before Thomas Kristensen took advantage of some slack defence to equalise from close range.
It was the Phoenix who had the upper hand in the last few minutes and it seemed that they had snatched a deserved win till Young’s heroics foiled Burns.
Coach Chris Greenacre was delighted with his team’s performance and said the players had done exactly as he asked.
“I thought we could hit them on the counter and when we won the ball back we did just that,” Greenacre said.
“It is a case of taking baby steps and keep improving week by week.”
Greenacre had special praise for Nathan Burns who is still seeking his first goal since returning to the Phoenix.
“Nathan caused problems for Brisbane all night because he is difficult to play against.
“If that shot late in the game had gone in it would have been a goal of the year contender.
“He can’t buy a goal at the moment but they will come if he keeps playing like that.
“My main thing was to get all of them playing and enjoying their football and I saw that tonight.”