Victory, Phoenix share the spoils in dramatic goalless draw
Melbourne Victory and Wellington Phoenix played out a 0-0 draw despite all the post-rattling shots, committed challenges and high-octane drama of an intense 90 minutes at AAMI Park on Saturday afternoon.
There were ten yellow cards and one second half red card to Victory's Kristijan Dobras in a hard-fought contest which neither side wanted to lose, and in the end that's exactly what happened as the game finished in a goalless deadlock.
The fans were treated to an entertaining first half at AAMI Park as both sides hit the woodwork and flew in whole-heartedly to a number of feisty challenges.
Ola Toivonen had the first genuine chance to score on the half-volley which called Wellington goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic into a smart save.
But after their bright start the Victory were pegged back by a sharp Phoenix outfit who were enjoying the majority of possession as Ulises Dávila hit the bar direct from a corner and Reno Piscopo came close to scoring from a half chance in the box.
Tension simmered throughout the first half after a number of testy challenges and the game eventually came to a boil when James Donachie crunched David Ball in Wellington's attacking third, sparking a spat between the two sides which set the tone for what would become a hotly contested game.
The Victory ended a challenging first half on top and almost went ahead through Kristijan Dobras who rattled the post with a low, curling attempt from outside the box.
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The second half continued in the same vein with Wellington dominating possession of the ball until a challenge from Dobras on Cam Devlin turned the game on its head.
When clearing the ball from his defensive half Dobras clipped Devlin in the chest with a wayward boot and received a red card for the challenge, sending the hosts down to 10 men and the home crowd into uproar.
Despite gaining the numerical ascendancy Wellington failed to break through a Victory defence which fell back after the dismissal of Dobras to choke any space the Phoenix hoped to exploit to find their breakthrough.
The hosts managed to navigate half an hour of football playing a man down, grinding to the final whistle as a fascinating game ultimately ended in a 0-0 draw.
Marinovic keeps Toivonen strike at bay
Toivonen crafted an excellent chance to put his side ahead but his vicious half-volleyed attempt was thwarted by Phoenix goalkeeper Marinovic.
After touching the ball down off his neck into the box Toivonen set himself to thump a thunderous volley toward the left corner of goal but Marinovic was quick to get across and push the ball around the post.
Dávila's creative corner attempt almost catches Thomas off guard
Dávila is scoring goals for fun for Wellington this season and the Mexican creator almost had his seventh of the campaign when he took a shot at goal direct from a corner.
Victory goalkeeper Thomas was well off his line and had to scramble back and put his glove against the bar to ensure the ball didn't squeeze past his outstretched arm into the back of the net.
Dobras fires long range effort off the upright
As the first half drew to a close the Victory gained the ascendancy and almost took the lead through Dobras, who dispatched a clean shot from outside the box off the post and away.
Marinovic and the Phoenix defenders could only stand and watch as the shot flew toward goal but fortunately for the visitors the strike deflected off the upright and into the path of Luke DeVere who cleared the ball to safety.
DeVere header bounces off the line and away
Wellington defender Devere rose highest from a corner routine to hammer a header off the bar and down towards the goal line and the centre back thought he had scored.
The Phoenix players appealed to the referee to award the goal, but replays showed the right call was made as the ball dropped directly on the line and away.
Matti Steinmann did his best to convert from the rebound but his shot went too high as the Victory maintained their clean sheet.
Dobras dismissed for high challenge on Devlin
It seemed as though Dobras was set to be substituted at the next stoppage in play, but before Marco Kurz could take off his attacker received a red card for a rash challenge on Devere.
Dobras left his studs dangling after clearing the ball and collided with Devere who took Dobras' boot to his chest and went down under the challenge.
Thomas save crucial in keeping the Phoenix at bay
With time ticking down Wellington turned the screws and almost found a goal through left back Liberato Cacace.
Cacace arrived at the back post to head a cross from Devlin goalward but Thomas was quick to dive to his left and parry the shot away.
Gary Hooper was arriving at the back post and was unlucky not to find the ball at his feet from the rebound, and Victory lived to fight another day.
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