Wellington Phoenix have been thwarted by a late Gold Coast United goal in Round 2 of the A-League. Chris Greenacre netted a brace for the Phoenix whilst Shane Smeltz grabbed a double for United but it was Gold Coast captain Jason Culina who netted the all-important leveller in the 87th minute to force the third 3-3 draw of the season so far.
Venue: Westpac Stadium, Wellington Crowd: 8,300 Referee: Peter O'Leary Yellow cards:WP - Leo Bertos 22', Andrew Durante 48', Ben Sigmund 80' GCU - Dino Djulbic 18', Tahj Minniecon 90+2'
On an extremely wet night in Wellington, the Phoenix wasted no time GOAL in exciting their fans in just the 6th minute when a Leo Bertos cross found Paul Ifill on the edge of the area. The Barbados international controlled the ball before creating room for himself with his customary check-back and then rocketing home with his left foot giving Glen Moss no chance.
Moments later, United were almost back on level terms when midfielder Zenon Caravella let rip with a shot that had Mark Paston flat-footed but unfortunately for the visitors, the ball struck the upright and fell away to safety.
Caravella was making a nuisance of himself, being involved in every forward foray as Gold Coast chased an equaliser and they looked like getting one, cutting the Phoenix defence open at will.
The Phoenix worked their way back into the contest in the mid stages of the half but it was to no avail as GOAL Wellington's former favourite son Shane Smeltz levelled for the visitors with a well-angled header from a perfect Jason Culina free-kick.
GOAL Straight away, however, the Phoenix again took the lead when Chris Greenacre tapped in from the back post after a goalmouth scramble was not cleared by the Gold Coast, sending the home fans into raptures and themselves into the warm dressing rooms with a one goal lead.
Minutes after the re-start, Gold Coast's Joel Porter had the perfect chance to make it 2-2 when he found space in the area and rounded Paston to see an open goal in front of him but Ben Sigmund made a great challenge to clear the ball away from Porter and keep his side in the lead.
GOAL In the 55th minute, the Phoenix made it 3-1 when Bertos took a quick free-kick, whipping it into the area where Dylan Macallister knocked it into the path of Greencare who volleyed home unmarked from close range.
Gold Coast were not getting the rub of the green when on the hour-mark Smeltz controlled the ball beautifully in the area but his poked shot, which beat Paston, could not get past the upright and Wellington were able to hold on to their two-goal buffer.
GOAL Again it was Culina and Smeltz who got Gold Coast back in the contest in the 74th minute when they combined for the visitors' second goal. Bertos gave away the ball in midfield where Porter pounced, held off his opponent and played a through ball to Culina who took it deep into the area before cutting back for Smeltz who calmly finished under duress.
The final ten minutes was set up for a classic finish and the Phoenix began that section of the match brightly with two chances to Greenacre and Ifill in quick succession but GOAL but United were not to be outdone and scored yet another equaliser with three minutes remaining. Culina was the man who hit the target with his head from a lovely Porter cross and what seemed like a victory for the Phoenix turned into a well-earned point for Gold Coast.
Starting Line-UpsWP Mark Paston (gk), Manny Muscat, Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante, Tony Lochhead, Leo Bertos (Daniel 83'), Tim Brown, Vince Lia, Paul Ifill, Chris Greenacre, Dylan Macallister (Hearfield 72')
Subs - Jonathan Gould (gk), Toto, Daniel (83'), Troy Hearfield (72')
GCU Glen Moss (gk), Bas van den Brink (Robson 63'), Dino Djulbic, Kristian Rees (Pantelidis 66'), Anderson (Minniecon 73'), Zenon Caravella, Michael Thwaite, Jason Culina, James Brown, Joel Porter, Shane Smeltz
Subs - Scott Higgins (gk), Steve Pantelidis (66'), Robson (63'), Tahj Minniecon (73')