Phoenix draw level in thriller

The Newcastle Jets and the Wellington Phoenix have fought out a thrilling 2-2 draw in their round seven Hyundai A-League clash at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Monday afternoon.

The Newcastle Jets and the Wellington Phoenix have fought out a thrilling 2-2 draw in their round seven Hyundai A-League clash at EnergyAustralia Stadium on Monday afternoon.

After a scoreless first half, the match came alive early in the second stanza when Shane Smeltz put the Phoenix ahead in the 51st minute from the penalty spot.

But the defending champions leveled the scores courtesy of a stunning curling effort from defender Tarek Elrich just on the hour mark before substitute Kaz Patafta put the Jets ahead eight minutes later.

The Phoenix didn't give up and earned another penalty on the stroke of full-time. Smeltz again slotted home to give both sides a share of the points.

"At one stage there I thought we were going to be fine, but it wasn't to be unfortunately," said Jets coach Gary van Egmond after the match.

"It is frustrating. We've played here at home three times now and drawn all three times," he said.

"I suppose the upside of it is that we scored two goals, but we've conceded two pens (penalties). If you want to be a serious challenger in this league you need to win your games at home."

After rain dogged the NSW public holiday morning, the weather cleared and the match started in sunshine with both sides opening cautiously.

It was a very competitive opening 45 minutes with the Phoenix unlucky not to score when Smeltz worked his way into a good position only to see his shot rebound off the post while the best chance for the home team saw Newcastle's Danish import Jesper Hakansson volley narrowly over the top after an attacking break down the right wing by Matt Thompson.

The Phoenix came out with more attacking venom to open the second half and were rewarded for their endeavours when veteran Vaughan Coveny was adjudged to have been pulled down by Daniel Piorowski in the penalty area.

Smeltz stepped up to slot home the spot kick to put Wellington ahead 1-0 after 51 minutes.

The goal seemed to spur the Jets and the home side almost hit back moments later when an Elrich cross found Edmundo Zura on the edge of the six-yard box. But his ambitious bicycle kick ballooned over the crossbar.

Right defender Elrich leveled the scores in the 59th minute when he found himself in an attacking position on the left wing and he managed to curl a lovely 25-yard strike past Phoenix goalkeeper Mark Paston to send the home crowd into raptures.

The Jets continued to attack and took the lead nine minutes later after Zura got the better of a contest with Paston, who was standing in for regular Wellington stopper Glen Moss.

Brazilian import Zura, who had a strong game up front in the absence of injured striker Joel Griffths, received from Thompson, nodding the ball on to unmarked substitute Patafta, who poked in his first goal for the Jets from five yards out.

But, just as it seemed the Jets had done enough to earn all three points, attacking Phoenix midfielder Leilei Gao was brought down in the penalty area in the 88th minute by Thompson.

Smeltz again stepped up and the Wellington striker gave Newcastle goalkeeper Ante Covic no chance when he powered the spot kick high into the right corner of the net, leveling the scores at 2-2 and giving his side a share of the points.

"I think in the context of things we knew Newcastle wouldn't be easy ... but I think we were worthy of taking the lead, we were gifted a couple and they took their chances as well ... that's football," said Wellington coach Ricky Herbert after the contest.

"I am sure Gary (van Egmond) thought the three points were coming their way but that is a bit more like us ... if that had have been three weeks ago we probably would have lost the match."

Newcastle Jets 2 (Elrich 59, Patafta 68) Wellington Phoenix 2 (Smeltz 52p, 89p) at EnergyAustralia Stadium