Phoenix, Wanderers share the spoils in momentum-swinging thriller
Three goals scored in eight second-half minutes saw Western Sydney Wanderers equalise, take the lead and lose it as Wellington Phoenix had the final say in a 2-2 draw at WIN Stadium on Sunday night.
The Phoenix took the lead in the first half through Mirza Muratovic before the Wanderers drew level in the 71st minute thanks to a Kwame Yeboah goal. Eight minutes later, the scores were locked at 2-2 after a Bruce Kamau's finish was cancelled out by Louis Fenton's header to ensure the Phoenix took a point from the entertaining contest.
Muratovic scored nine minutes into the piece to give the Phoenix a first-half lead they held until the break. Ulises Davila ran rampant in the opening 45, assisting the Muratovic opener and teeing up Reno Piscopo for a chance which may have resulted in a second Phoenix goal if not for a loose touch from the Australia under-23 international.
It was a rare blemish throughout Piscopo's impressive first-half display, highlighted by a half-volley struck with technique and force which rattled off the post, only just evading the target.
Wanderers began to turn momentum in the dying embers of the first half and completed their transition into dominance throughout the early stages of the second stanza, forging a number of chances as Bernie Ibini, Nicolai Müller and Yeboah were joined by Tate Russell in sending shots toward the Phoenix goal.
After 70 minutes of frustration, the Wanderers finally drew level thanks to a set-piece routine designed on the training track and executed to perfection. Jordan O'Doherty found Keanu Baccus at the back post with a free-kick, who volleyed across goal for Yeboah to head home, restoring parity in the contest and setting up an enthralling ending in Wollongong.
Yeboah's goal was the first of three to be scored within eight minutes. Wanderers went ahead as the game opened up after Daniel Wilmering put a cross on a platter for Kamau to put his side into the lead, before Fenton equalised three minutes later with a free-kick routine not dissimilar to the three-touch set-piece which led to Yeboah's goal just eight minutes prior.
With little more than ten minutes to play, the open fixture could have gone either way, with both teams pushing hard for a winner. But, the scoring spree was over after Fenton's headed finish, leaving both teams with a share of the points in the 2-2 affair.
Wellington burst out of the blocks at WIN Stadium, with Piscopo and Davila causing havoc as the hosts ramped up the pressure, which led to a ninth-minute opening goal.
Clayton Lewis found Davila with a pass through the centre of the park and the Mexican collected the ball on the turn in a gap amongst the Wanderers midfield. Davila opened his body and picked a pass which found Muratovic steaming in on goal. His first shot was saved by Daniel Margush but the rebound fell back into the path of the 21-year-old who slid the ball into the back of the net.
Piscopo's sparkling start to the game continued after playing his part in putting Phoenix ahead, venturing into dangerous positions and going close to scoring a phenomenal solo goal, controlling the ball with one touch and sizing up the shot as the ball dropped to strike a curling half volley which hammered into the right-hand upright.
With Mitchell Duke on the bench, the Wanderers strike force failed to generate many first-half chances. Müller curled a strike from outside the box over Oliver Sail's crossbar and a Ziggy Gordon header helped the visitors threaten from a corner routine, before Bernie Ibini got his legs in a tangle attempting a slaloming run into the box.
Down the other end, Davila and Piscopo's first-half showcase went on. Davila zipped past Mark Natta on the right flank, drove into the box and sent a shot toward Margush, and then he created a big chance for Piscopo with a tricky run past Wilmering on the opposite wing, laying the 22-year-old in on goal. Piscopo's touch was loose, which allowed Margush to get off his line and smother the resulting shot.
Wanderers grew in confidence as the first half progressed and Yeboah grew as an attacking threat. The 26-year-old called Sail into a save low to his right before lashing a strong shot late in the opening stanza, taking a sharp touch to take the Wellington defenders out of the game and asking Sail to dive quickly to his left and push the strike away.
The visitors continued to grow into the game after the two sides emerged from the half-time break. After winning a committed challenge on the edge of the box, Ibini flashed a ball off the outside of his boot across the face of goal which neither Müller or Yeboah managed to meet at the back post. The Wanderers duo each received a further chance to score in the following five minutes, with both attempts meeting the gloves of Sail.
A reactive block from Fenton kept a dangerous Baccus cross from venturing into dangerous space in Wellington's defensive box just after the hour mark. Davila caused problems for the Wanderers down the other end with inventive dribbling and trickery to send two strikes towards goal in quick succession. The first was blocked by the desperate Ziggy Gordon and the second dribbled meekly past Margush's right-hand post.
What came next was an eight-minute flurry of goals and swinging momentum. The Wanderers equalised in the 71st-minute after O'Doherty's free-kick in an attacking situation found Baccus streaming into space. The midfielder volleyed across goal to find Yeboah on the opposite side of goal; the Wanderers streamed to the bench in celebration, as coaching staff and players alike acknowledged each other for executing the dead-ball routine.
The hosts had little time to react to conceding their lead to the Wanderers before the visitors claimed it for themselves.
This time it was Kamau benefiting from a well-weighted cross, getting on the end of a Wilmering ball from the left flank to the back post to brush the ball home on the volley from close range.
The team from Wanderland was suddenly in dreamland after overcoming the one-goal deficit to claim a second-half lead. But, in a fitting tribute to a manic second stanza, the visitors were unable to rest on their laurels as the Phoenix attacked once more.
Ufuk Talay's side found an equaliser from a set-piece routine drawn up in similar fashion to the one the Wanderers used to score through Yeboah. Lewis' ball to the back post was met by the rising Alex Rufer, who headed across goal to find Fenton in the midst of a sea of bodies.
Fenton rose above Gordon to send a header of his own into the back of the net. It was the third goal in an eight-minute flurry which ultimately helped the Phoenix cling onto a point at WIN Stadium.
Western Sydney Wanderers v Adelaide United
Saturday, February 27 2021
Kick-off: 5.05pm AEDT
Newcastle Jets v Wellington Phoenix
Sunday, February 28 2021
McDonald Jones Stadium
Kick-off 6:10pm AEDT
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