For the second week in a row Wellington have pushed a side many consider a title favourite all the way, but can consider themselves unlucky to leave Melbourne pointless after a 1-0 loss on Saturday night at AAMI Park.
Scottish Premier League Ross McCormack proved the difference with a moment of deadball class but it was another performance from Wellington that would give head coach Darije Kalezic heart his team are on the right track.
It was an opening stanza of few chances for both sides with Melbourne City lining up with a defence-minded formation and it was the visitors who settled better early on. Phoenix enjoying more than 70% possession over the first 15 minutes.
Roy Krishna and Goran Paracki both fashioned shooting chances but skewered their shots wide to the relief of the home fans.
The first clear-cut chance came in the 21st minute with Nick Fitzgerald put through by Stefan Mauk but the winger blasted his shot high.
Fitzgerald also found himself with a terrific chance minutes later but it was a solid save from young Keegan Smith who dived well to hold his shot.
There was concern midway through the half with the returning Marco Rossi grabbing at his groin, the injury that had sidelined the Italian over previous weeks.
Momentum then moved back to the visitors as Melbourne City appeared to sit back, Ali Abbas cut inside in the 31st minute and almost fired one top corner only for Eugene Galekovic to save well.
Melbourne super-striker McCormack had been relatively quiet but he almost opened his City account with a spectacular scissor kick in the 37th minute.
Phoenix’s best chance came in the shadow of half-time with Dario Vidosic capitalising on a quick transition to fire tracer shot just past Galekovic’s far post.
Nil-nil the score at half-time.
After the break, it was another period of feeling out, before Krishna tried to spark the encounter. The Fijian flyer jinked inside Iacopo La Rocca to win a freekick in a dangerous area but City defended well from captain for the night Michael McGlinchey’s whipped cross.
Five minutes later in the 57th minute it was Krishna who slalomed inside several players before feeding Abbas who fired a thumping shot, but it flew past Galekovic’s far post.
In a purple patch for the Nix, Andrija Kaludjerovic then found himself with only one defender to beat a minute later, the Serbian marksman cut inside but his final shot lacked a clean connection.
Vidosic then drew a sharp save from Galekovic from another goal-bound headed effort but with Phoenix in the supremacy City stung with their multi-million-dollar man.
A foul from Matthew Ridenton gave McCormack a freekick opportunity about 30 metres out and the Aston Villa sharpshooter fired an unstoppable driven effort in off the base of the far post with Smith no chance.
Phoenix continued to dominate possession and showed no sign of panic, and only a miraculous save from Galekovic kept the hosts in front.
Krishna’s first effort clattered back off the crossbar, before Kaludjerovic’s follow up effort was tipped around the post by the four-time A-League Goalkeeper of the Year.
A frustrating evening for Phoenix who once again showed themselves willing, but ultimately return to New Zealand empty handed.