Brown brilliance snatches draw

An 88th-minute wonder-strike from Olyroo James Brown has salvaged a 1-1 draw for Gold Coast United in their season opener against Wellington Phoenix at Skilled Park on Sunday.

An 88th-minute wonder-strike from Olyroo James Brown has salvaged a 1-1 draw for Gold Coast United in their season opener against Wellington Phoenix at Skilled Park on Sunday.

Gold Coast looked destined to start their season with a loss despite being in the driver's seat for most of the afternoon, with Chris Greenacre's 17th-minute strike the only goal separating the sides for the vast majority of the match.

But then right at the death, 21-year-old Brown popped up, beat two defenders and unleashed a brilliant curving shot from 25 yards that looped over the head of Wellington gloveman Mark Paston and into the back of the net.

It was no more than what rising star Brown and United deserved after an impressive performance, but the stubborn Phoenix were able to frustrate them enough times to escape across the Tasman with a share of the spoils.

But once they get there, Wellington will find themselves faced with another injury crisis with Paul Ifill (groin), Vince Lia (knee) and Dani Sanchez (calf) all coming off, giving coach Ricki Herbert more unwanted selection headaches next week.

With barely enough players available for a full squad to start the match after the club's recent ownership wrangles, the Phoenix asked United some serious defensive questions early on.

Only a reflex save from point-blank range by United shotstopper Glen Moss stopped Tim Brown from finishing off a perfectly weighted ball from Ifill to the far post in the 13th minute.

But there wasn't much Moss could do five minutes later when Greenacre knocked in the first goal of the match after the Phoenix sliced open the Gold Coast rearguard like a hot knife through butter.

On the counter-attack, Spanish playmaker Sanchez waited until the right moment to draw Michael Thwaite to the ball, and then flicked out a pass to Manny Muscat whose cross left Greenacre with the simplest of tap-ins.

Wellington were fortunate as either side of that strike, Dylan Macallister had two goals correctly ruled out for offside - the first after Paston parried away a rasping Peter Jungschlager shot in the 10th minute, and then again after a mazy run from Ben Halloran in the 20th.

The hosts continue to press, but Paston was equal to on-target efforts from Paul Beekmans and Adama Traore just before the interval - and they continued where they left off just one minute into the second period as Halloran blazed his shot high and wide from just a few yards out after a clever one-two with Robson.

Gold Coast were well on top but the Phoenix custodian continued to keep them at bay, saving another shot from Peter Jungschlager that looked destined for the net on the 50-minute mark.

The Phoenix continued to sit back and soak up the pressure from the hosts - and they obliged, but couldn't edge ahead no matter what they tried.

This was no more apparent than in the 79th minute, when Ante Rozic rose the highest to meet a Jungschlager corner - but his header was cleared off the line by Muscat and up into the crossbar and away to safety.

But then just as a loss was looking the most likely result, James Brown came to United's rescue with his cracking long-range effort that sent the crowd of 4113 into raptures.

He had another chance to replicate that exquisite piece of skill from almost the exact same position deep into injury time but was unable to pull a second rabbit from his hat, meaning both sides would have to leave satisfied with one point apiece.

Gold Coast United 1 (Brown 88) Wellington Phoenix 1 (Greenacre 17) Crowd: 4113