The Wellington Phoenix have been left to rue missed opportunities and eventually had to come from behind to draw 1-1 with the struggling Central Coast Mariners at Eden Park.
The home side created a multitude of chances inside the first half-hour, but a combination of poor finishing and excellent goalkeeping from Liam Reddy kept them goal-less, before a Matt Simon sucker-punch put the Mariners ahead just before half-time.
After significant pressure in the second half, Fijian Roy Krishna finally squared the ledger with his fourth goal in as many matches. Despite late flurries from both sides, the points were shared, which would please Phil Moss far more than Ernie Merrick.
1-0 Matt Simon 40 minutes
Nick Fitzgerald drilled in a low shot which Glen Moss was unable to gather, allowing the experienced Matt Simon to pounce in the six-yard box and poke the ball under the Phoenix ‘keeper and into the net.
1-1 Roy Krishna 76 minutes
Michael McGlinchey lifted a sumptuous ball over the top of a flat Mariners back four and Krishna – on an angled run from the left – chested the ball down and fired an assured right-footed finish into the bottom corner of the net.
As the game ticked into its final quarter-hour, the frustration of both Phoenix fans and players was evident, before Krishna seized his opportunity to not only draw his side level, but also become just the second player in Phoenix history to score in four consecutive A-League matches. It further cemented his reputation as a player who truly belongs at A-League level.
Opta Data key stats
The Phoenix had 21 shots on goal to the Mariners’ ten, but tellingly only a third were on target. Despite playing 140 more passes than the Mariners, and with an accuracy of close to 90%, the end product was the one thing missing from the Phoenix resume.
Liam Reddy’s giant frame once secured a famous penalty shoot-out playoff win for the Phoenix and it was he who denied his former team-mates with a succession of excellent saves. Dressed in fluorescent pink, he caught the eye in more ways than one.
Chance creation is one thing; finishing those chances is where the real value lies in a football match. It seemed almost inevitable the Phoenix would convert at least one of their plethora of first-half chances to put the game beyond doubt even before the break, but instead it took a moment of Krishna magic to salvage a point from a game they should have comfortably won.
Mariners midfielder Nick Montgomery limped off after just 21 minutes and was joined in the dressing room at half-time by Zach Anderson, leaving Phil Moss with thin resources in the second half. Matt Simon – who Moss freely admitted afterwards is nowhere near match-fit – was forced to play 93 minutes in just his second outing of the season.
The Final Word
As is often the case, one coach is happy with a draw while the other is not and Phil Moss will certainly be the more satisfied of the two mentors after this match. His side dug deep to repel constant Phoenix forays in the first half and became a better side after going ahead against all expectation.
The Phoenix have shown on more than one occasion this season the ability to come from behind to rescue points, but they’ll struggle to understand how they couldn’t put away a side they dominated for such long periods.
The Phoenix wore a special shirt commemorating the New Zealand the release of the final chapter in New Zealand’s enormously successful Hobbit trilogy; unfortunately there was to be no fairytale finish to this game, despite their best efforts.