Top four hopefuls Wellington Phoenix have been left frustrated after being held to a goalless draw with Melbourne City in Lower Hutt on Saturday afternoon.
In an otherwise even first half, close-range efforts from Connor Chapman and Josh Kennedy were repelled by Glen Moss, before the visitors dominated the opening exchanges after the break but were unable to find the net.
The final half-hour was all Wellington Phoenix, but a combination of poor finishing from the hosts and stern defence mixed with often over-the-top physicality from the visitors saw both goals unbreached and the points shared.
As the Phoenix built pressure in the final quarter, a sublime pass from Michael McGlinchey set Nathan Burns free down the right and his square pass found Roy Krishna unmarked at the near post. From five yards out the Fijian striker inexplicably missed the ball completely instead of tapping in what would have been the crucial opening goal.
Opta Data key stats
Six yellow cards for Melbourne City, including one to each of the back four, tell the story of a side intent on stopping the Phoenix’s attacking forays by fair means or foul.
The official stats show just one shot each on target for the two sides, but both resulted in superb saves by the respective ‘keepers.
With time running out, substitute Michael Boxall found himself five yards out on the angle and drilled a fierce shot towards goal. The previously unemployed Tando Velaphi spread himself brilliantly to keep the shot out and the game goalless.
Damien Duff came to Wellington in fine form and with Josh Kennedy included in the starting line-up, the prospect of pinpoint crosses onto the former Socceroos striker’s head was an appealing one for City fans. Unfortunately Duff’s day was done less than ten minutes into the game as he limped off with what looked to be a serious injury.
Duff limped off after just seven minutes and was later sighted on crutches while Phoenix fullback Louis Fenton was escorted groggily from the field and will stay under observation for 48 hours after copping a ferocious second-half shot from David Williams flush in the jaw.
Back to the drawing board
Two goalless games from the previous free-scoring Phoenix will furrow the brow of Ernie Merrick, as he seeks a way for his side to convert the plethora of chances they’ve created – yet spurned – in the past two matches.
The Final Word
John van’t Schip will be happier with the point than his Phoenix counterpart and his side’s physical tactics, perhaps borrowed from the Western Sydney Wanderers in their win over the Phoenix last week, were enough to stymie any momentum the hosts could muster. The love-all scoreline was perhaps fitting on Valentine’s Day.
Wellington Phoenix: Moss, Fenton (Boxall), Sigmund, Durante, Muscat, Riera, Rodriguez, Bonevacia, McGlinchey, Burns, Krishna.
Melbourne City: Velaphi, Baharudin, Chapman, Kisnorbo, Clisby, Mooy, Melling, Koren, Duff (Ramsay (Murdocca)), Kennedy, Williams.
Red cards: n/a
Yellow cards: Phoenix: Bonevacia, Sigmund. Melbourne City: Clisby, Chapman, Koren, Kisnorbo, Melling, Baharudin
Conditions: Overcast, blustery winds, 14 degrees