The Wellington Phoenix used a strong second-half run to earn a 1-1 draw tonight, remaining in third place on the ladder – while also locking in a playoff appearance – thanks to a Gary Hooper equaliser on the 82nd minute in answer to Scott McDonald’s opening goal.
With Luke DeVere sitting out due to suspension, Coach Ufuk Talay turned to 25-year-old Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi to fill his place, likewise bringing in Callan Elliot in place of Louis Fenton after both players impressed against Adelaide United.
The Phoenix started in control of the match in the early going, with attempts on goal by Liberato Cacace and Ulises Dávila both being denied by Roar goalkeeper Jamie Young – Dávila’s attempt coming after an interception and brilliant solo run into the box.
Brisbane’s first opportunity came from Dylan Wenzel-Halls, whose effort on the 23-minute mark sailed to the left of the Phoenix goal. The Nix would attempt to retaliate shortly after, with the first of Steven Taylor’s two header attempts only barely saved by a scrambling Young.
Wellington would dial up their defense in the first half, highlighted by Hudson-Wihongi’s spectacular sliding block on a Scott McDonald attempt inside the box, and Stefan Marinovic’s superb deflection of another Wenzel-Halls goal attempt.
Brisbane’s Scott McDonald would also have a pair of goal attempts both easily caught by Marinovic, with the Roar never really threatening on goal in the first half.
Just before half-time, Gary Hooper would control the ball inside the box and lob it towards goal, only to have it somehow deflected by a desperate Young – Phoenix genuinely unlucky to not be up 1-0 at the break.
The first half ended with possession evenly shared between the two teams; and while Brisbane had eight goals attempted to Phoenix’s four, three of those Nix’s attempts would be on target. Wellington also blocked a remarkable seven shots and made seven interceptions in the first half, showing a defensive intensity that helped extend their streak of first-half clean sheets to nine consecutive matches.
The Phoenix would start off aggressively in the second half, with attempts by Hudson-Wihongi and Ball that couldn’t be finished off, and Dávila missing a free kick after Cacace was taken down just outside the box at the 56 minute mark. A follow-up attempt from Hooper minutes later, would land safely in the hands of Young.
Scott McDonald would strike for the Roar on the 61 minute mark; his volley finding the back of the net to put the Roar up 1-0, giving McDonald his sixth goal in the Roar’s last six matches.
The Nix had several attempts to equalise over the next 20 minutes, with a trio of attempts by Reno Piscopo, Cacace and Dávila all saved by a determined Young – and on the 82nd minute Hooper would smash home a goal to tie up the match 1-1; his eighth goal of the season coming off a rebound of a Cacace attempt that had struck the right goalpost.
With Jaushua Sotirio unable to connect on a pair of solid attempts on goal in the last five minutes, the match would come to a close as a 1-1 draw. The Phoenix will be happy with their second-half effort as they registered a whopping 12 second-half shots on goal versus Brisbane’s four, dominating possession and showcasing the type of intensity that got them into the top six.
Coach Ufuk Talay was happy with the player’s overall effort, particularly in the second half.
“I’m pleased with our performance and the reaction the players showed tonight, I thought we created enough chances to win the game to be honest.
“We’re slowly going to build momentum and for me we wanted to make the top six – and we’re in the top six – so now we want to build momentum for the Finals, try to give everyone game time and make sure they’re fit and firing once we get to that stage of the season.”
The Phoenix will next take on Newcastle Jets on Thursday 13 August, at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium in Sydney, in what will be their last match of the regular season.
Wellington Phoenix Starting XI
1.Stefan MARINOVIC (gk), 4.Te Atawhai HUDSON-WIHONGI, 5.Matti STEINMANN, 7.Reno PISCOPO, 8.Cameron DEVLIN, 9.David BALL, 10.Ulises DAVILA, 13.Liberato CACACE, 17. Callan ELLIOT, 27.Steven TAYLOR (c), 88.Gary HOOPER
Wellington Phoenix Substitutes
62’ ON 14.Alex RUFER OFF 8.Cameron DEVLIN
72’ ON 21.Callum MCCOWATT OFF. 10.Ulises DAVILA
80’ ON 11.Jaushua SOTIRIO OFF 7.Reno PISCOPO
Brisbane Roar Starting XI
Brisbane Roar FC squad: 2.Scott NEVILLE, 3.Corey BROWN, 5.Tom ALDRED (c), 6.Macaulay GILLESPHEY, 8.Danny KIM, 10.Bradden INMAN, 19.Jack HINGERT, 21.Jamie YOUNG (gk), 23.Dylan WENZEL-HALLS, 26.Jay O’SHEA, 77.Scott MCDONALD
Brisbane Roar Substitutes
63’ ON 12.Matthew RIDENTON OFF 23.Dylan WENZEL-HALLS
87’ ON 20.Aaron AMADI-HOLLOWAY OFF 10.Bradden INMAN
61’ Scott McDONALD (Brisbane Roar)
82’ Gary HOOPER (Wellington Phoenix)
Next Match details
Round 24 – Wellington Phoenix versus Newcastle Jets at Netstrata Jubilee Stadium, Sydney; Thursday 13 August 2020, 9.30pm NZT