Victory pinch a point

A late goal by Rodrigo Vargas earned 10-man Melbourne a 1-1 Hyundai A-League draw against the Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Friday night.

A late goal by Rodrigo Vargas earned 10-man Melbourne a 1-1 Hyundai A-League draw against the Wellington Phoenix at Westpac Stadium on Friday night.

Tim Brown's 57th minute header, after Nick Ward had been sent off for a second yellow card, had looked to have been enough for the Phoenix until they were undone by some sloppy defending at the set-piece with four minutes to go which allowed Vargas to steal in and head home the equaliser.

The result may have seen the Phoenix equal Sydney FC's Hyundia A-League record of 14 games unbeaten at home but that will be little consolation given they should have won the game.

Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert felt it was certainly two points lost.

"I think we were very dominant tonight. We should have taken that out for sure. At the set play we didn't track and we got punished for it," he said.

"I thought we exposed them when we needed to and created a lot of chances. It's certainly a game we should have won.”

Victory coach Ernie Merrick was also disappointed not to have come away with the win.

"In the second half we thought we played really good football and created the better chances," he said.

"Wellington certainly had possession but apart from one good shot close in they were really restricted to knocking high balls into the box which we dealt with really well."

"Given the chances that Carlos and Archie had we could have got all three points."

Troy Hearfield, making just his third start of the season in place of the suspended Manny Muscat, had a strong game at right back and it was his pace going forward that led to a frustrating night for the league leaders.

It was fouls against the right back that led to Ward's sending off late in the first half when he was shown his second yellow card for pulling back the Phoenix defender, having been put in referee Michael Hester's book for a similar foul in the 25th minute.

Matthew Kemp, who shook off a groin problem to boost the already injury-depleted Victory, was also booked for a challenge on Hearfield earlier in the opening exchanges.

While Wellington welcomed back Mark Paston in goal after he missed last weekend-s 4-1 loss to Brisbane, it was without import striker Chris Greenacre due to a knee injury.

Adrian Caceres slotted in on the left with Daniel moving more central to sit behind in support of Paul Ifill up front.

With Melbourne also forced to re-jig their line-up because of injuries to Grant Brebner and Evan Berger it made for a scrappy opening spell, which saw Vince Lia booked in just the sixth minute, as both teams took time to settle and gave the ball away too easily.

The closest either side came to a goal inside the opening 15 minutes was when Andrew Durante stuck a foot out trying to clear the ball and saw it fly towards his own goal before bouncing just wide of the right-hand upright.

Four minutes later Ifill, who had another commanding game, beat his man but fired his shot over the crossbar.

Melbourne then spurned a good chance on the breakaway after Bertos was dispossessed but a great ball through from Carlos Hernandez was wasted when Robbie Kruse was caught offside, although his first touch also let him down.

Gradually though the Wellington midfield began to take control of the game and Daniel, in his 50th Hyundai A-League appearance, forced a low diving save from Victory keeper Mitch Langerak.

Ward then saw red five minutes before half-time.

The Phoenix had two other decent chances before the interval but Durante headed wide then Caceres' effort to poke home flew over the crossbar.

Victory coach Ernie Merrick made a change immediately after the break bringing on Tom Pondeljak for Kruse.

There were chances for Archie Thompson and Ifill before another Hernandez effort ricocheted off Paston and Hearfield who had collided in the box to fly high and wide.

The breakthrough finally came in the 57th minute when Brown got in front of his marker Kevin Muscat to head home his fifth goal of the season after a good cross in from Bertos.

Kevin Muscat got enough on a strong Ifill shot in the 72nd minute to deflect it behind for a corner as the Phoenix pressed forward for another goal to secure the game.

But it was the Victory that pulled one out of the hat when Vargas connected with Leigh Broxham's ball in from the corner.

The Phoenix threw everything they had at Victory in the dying minutes but Langerak stood firm to deny them.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Brown 57) Melbourne Victory 1 (Vargas 86) Crowd: 8,200 at Westpac Stadium