The Wellington Phoenix have walked away with a 2-2 draw in Melbourne tonight, battling against a first-placed City side to remain unbeaten in seven matches (3W, 4D) as they now head to New Zealand for a pair of highly anticipated home games.
After Tomer Hemed opened the scoring with a first-half penalty, Melbourne would equalise thanks to Naoki Tsubaki in the second half; the home side going ahead for the first time in the thanks to a Jamie Maclaren strike, before Hemed squared things up with a brilliant goal in the final minutes of the match.
Tonight saw both sides making substantial changes to their Starting XIs from the previous match; Wellington without their captain Ulises Davila as well as defender Steven Taylor – the latter suffering from illness – and welcoming Cameron Devlin and Louis Fenton back from suspension. Ben Waine also returned to the line-up in place of Jaushua Sotirio, with Reno Piscopo making his first start for the Phoenix since Match Week 13 in March.
Melbourne City, rotating their squad after playing three matches in a week, elected to bench incumbents Maclaren, Craig Noone and captain Scott Jamieson - bringing in Nuno Reis, Adrian Luna, Stefan Colakovski and Ben Garuccio in their place. Marco Tilio would also be bought into the Starting XI, replacing the injured Andrew Nabbout.
The match also saw a pair of first-time Captains, with Tim Payne wearing the armband for Wellington and Connor Metcalfe selected to captain his Melbourne side.
Here’s the key moments from this match:
10’ – Devlin attacks
After an interception by the Nix, Devlin cranks back a left-footed foot from outside the box which glances off a City defender and goes wide of goal. Although Melbourne are controlling the possession early, Wellington have been creating more opportunities in their opponent’s goal area so far.
25’ – Waine’s header attempt
After the Phoenix earn a set piece situation, Hemed delivers an excellent cross to Waine on the left side – but his header from the six yard box is just too high, hitting the top of the net.
32’ – Fenton to Piscopo
The Nix’s best chance on goal in the first half comes courtesy of a Fenton pass into Piscopo in front of City’s goal; his strong attempt blocked by the Melbourne defence. Despite the miss, the Phoenix have been squarely in control over the past 15 minutes, piling on the offensive pressure and creating plenty of chances to score.
37’ – GOAL: Penalty for Hemed (1-0)
After Fenton is taken down by Garuccio in the penalty area, Hemed lines up the penalty and easily slots home the goal to put Wellington up 1-0. This is Hemed’s sixth goal of the season and his third successful penalty.
Half Time – Wellington Phoenix 1, Melbourne City 0
The Phoenix head into the break up 1-0 thanks to Hemed’s penalty, after dominating the last thirty minutes of the half. The Nix have clearly benefitted from the Devlin’s disruptive energy in the midfield, along with both the attacking presence of Piscopo and Payne’s outstanding defence.
On offence, Wellington has attempted eight goals versus Melbourne’s six (none on target) and have a distinct advantage in duels; with 31 duels won to City’s 17, and 10 aerial duels won against Melbourne’s two.
51’ – Ball gets it up to Waine
David Ball delivers a brilliant pass ahead to Waine, who evades City goalkeeper Tom Glover and attempts a goal from the left-hand side; his effort blocked by Rostyn Griffiths directly in front of goal.
54’ – Sail saves Galloway’s attempt
Scott Galloway makes a strong run on the right side, attempting a strike which is on target – their first of the match - but is blocked by Nix goalkeeper Oli Sail. Melbourne is starting to build some momentum in the past several minutes.
58’ – GOAL: Tsubaki equalises (1-1)
Tilio puts a great pass into Tsubaki inside the box, the latter slotting his first goal of the season to tie the match at one apiece; Tilio picking up his fourth assist of the campaign as Melbourne ties things up at one apiece.
81’ – GOAL: Maclaren strikes (1-2)
After Luna is taken down, Melbourne earns a free kick – Maclaren stepping up and curling his attempt around a wall of Nix defenders to register his 25th goal of the season.
Melbourne takes the lead for the first time in this match.
89’ – GOAL: Hemed with the brace (2-2)
Hemed takes a brilliant cross from Ball inside the box, and knocks home a tough goal past Glover while falling down to tie the match up once again. This is Hemed’s seventh goal of the season – and his first brace – tying him with Davila for the team lead; Ball also picks up his third assist of the season.
Full Time – Wellington Phoenix 2, Melbourne City 2
Wellington secure their third straight draw in a hard-fought and exciting match between two high-scoring teams; both sides registering 18 goals at goal, with eight of those shots on target for the Nix including two apiece from Ball and Hemed.
Following the match, Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay praised his team’s performance but expressed disappointment in not picking up the win.
“Normally during the season we’d take a point if we came here [and drew] against Melbourne City, especially when they’re in top form like this,” said Talay.
“But where we are sitting, it’s disappointing to let them come back into the game then have to fight our way back into the game - at the end of the day a point is a point and we’ve still got four very important games to go, and they’re against teams that are just above us or just around us.”
The Phoenix travel tomorrow to New Zealand - taking their seven-match unbeaten streak with them - where they will take on Western United at Sky Stadium on Saturday 22 May, their first and only match in Wellington this season.
Wellington Phoenix squad: 6.Tim PAYNE, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 16.Louis FENTON, 17.Tomer HEMED, 18.Ben WAINE, 19.Sam SUTTON, 20.Oliver SAIL, 21.Joshua LAWS, 23.Clayton LEWIS
Melbourne City FC squad: 1.Tom GLOVER (gk), 2.Scott GALLOWAY, 4.Nuno REIS, 10.Florin BERENGUER-BOHRER, 14.Naoki TSUBAKI, 17.Stefan COLAKOVSKI, 18.Connor METCALFE, 19.Ben GARUCCIO, 20.Adrian LUNA, 22.Curtis GOOD, 23.Marco TILIO
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
72’ ON 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO OFF 18.Ben WAINE
86’ ON 5.James MCGARRY OFF 7.Reno PISCOPO
86’ ON 13.Charles LOKOLI-NGOY OFF 23.Clayton LEWIS
Melbourne City FC Substitutions
46’ ON 11.Craig NOONE OFF 17.Stefan COLAKOVSKI
46’ ON 7.Rostyn GRIFFITHS OFF 22.Curtis GOOD
61’ ON 9.Jamie MACLAREN OFF 14.Naoki TSUBAKI
61’ ON 8.Aiden O’NEILL OFF 10.Florin BERENGUER-BOHRER
77’ ON 5.Daniel GEORGIEVSKI OFF 7.Rostyn GRIFFITHS
37’ Tomer HEMED (PEN) (Wellington Phoenix)
58’ Naoki TSUBAKI (Melbourne City)
81’ Jamie MACLAREN (Melbourne City)
88’ Tomer HEMED (Wellington Phoenix)
Next Match details
Match Week 22: Wellington Phoenix versus Western United, Sky Stadium in Wellington, Saturday 22 May 2021, kick-off at 4.05pm NZ time (2.05pm AEDT)