Phoenix fluff chance to stun Sky Blues
Wellington star Ulises Davila scored one of the goals of the season before fluffing one of the worst misses as the Phoenix and Sydney FC played out a riveting 2-2 A-League draw.
In one of the games of the season, the home side were unfortunate not to come away with more at Westpac Stadium on Saturday after playing well enough to snap the league leaders' six-match winning streak.
The sixth-placed Phoenix maintained a six-game unbeaten run and further announced themselves as strong finals contenders under Ufuk Talay. Last year's Sydney FC assistant coach devised a plan to rattle the defending premiers, dominating in the middle of the park through a short, patient passing game that created the better chances.
However, the 55th minute introduction from the bench of Sydney attacking wizard Milos Ninkovic proved a turning point.
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The Serbian shook off a calf niggle to set up the equaliser via an own goal from Phoenix skipper Steven Taylor and he created further late scares for Wellington.
The home team's playmaking star, Davila, was central to two key moments. He put them 2-1 ahead with a goal of rare quality - his seventh of the season - before halftime but was guilty of butchering a gift chance during the thrilling final 20 minutes. The Mexican somehow pushed Liberato Cacace's cross wide of an unguarded goal from two yards out.
Wellington were unchanged from the team who drew 0-0 with Melbourne Victory last week while Ninkovic's benching was their only change from the 1-0 defeat of Central Coast, replaced by Anthony Caceres.
Adam le Fondre's opener for Sydney was his 11th goal of the campaign, latching onto an innocuous toe poke from Kosta Barbarouses and getting a foot in ahead of hesitant goalkeeper Stefan Marinovic.
Olyroos winger Reno Piscopo's equaliser was first goal for the Phoenix. It came via David Ball's determination, the fast-breaking Englishman keeping the defence at bay before delivering the cross on a platter.
Davila's goal oozed quality, featuring some neat one-touch build-up play before Tim Payne's cross was met on the half-volley to put Wellington deservedly 2-1 up at the break.
Ninkovic's arrival then reaped immediate rewards.
He won the free kick which led to Taylor's own-goal, the veteran Phoenix skipper unable to get his torso clear of a ball whipped across the box by Luke Brattan.