Phoenix, Victory all square

Archie Thompson became the first player to score 50 A-League goals but it was still not enough for Melbourne Victory who had to settle for a 2-2 draw with the Wellington Phoenix on Saturday night.

Archie Thompson became the first player to score 50 A-League goals but it was still not enough for Melbourne Victory who had to settle for a 2-2 draw with the Wellington Phoenix on Saturday night.

Thompson’s 19th minute effort was his first since coming back from knee surgery and drew his side level after Tim Brown had volleyed home for the Phoenix just a couple of minutes earlier.

Robbie Kruse finished off a superbly worked attack to put the visitors 2-1 up five minutes from the break and it took a bit of Paul Ifill magic six minutes from time to earn the Phoenix a share of the spoils at Westpac Stadium.

While Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert was happy to have backed-up from the win against the Heart, his opposite Ernie Merrick said the overwhelming feeling in his side was one of disappointment.

“The feeling in the dressing room is like it was a loss to us. We’re very disappointed,” the Victory boss said.

“It’s a tough place to come and play but after they scored the goal we had a problem in midfield that we fixed up and I thought we took over the game in the first half after that.”

“Towards the end of the game they threw caution to the wind and we defended reasonably well but we couldn’t catch them on the break to score our third and they got an equaliser. Credit to them but we’re extremely disappointed.”

The equaliser was Ifill’s third goal in two games after he scored both in the 2-0 win against the Heart on Wednesday night.

The result meant a seventh game on the road without a win for Victory – a club record.

Herbert made just one change to the side that started against the Heart with James Musa making his A-League debut in place of the suspended Ben Sigmund.

Musa’s inclusion at left-back forced a reshuffle with Troy Hearfield switching to the right and Jade North moving to centre-back.

It was a baptism of fire for the 18-year-old defender whose channel was targeted by the Victory from the start.

Thompson got away from Musa to score Victory’s equaliser and the pressure was applied again – this time by Billy Celeski – to give Kruse the simplest of tap-ins for the visitors’ second.

Musa fared a little better in the second half and did enough to prevent Kruse from grabbing his second before he was substituted for Marcos Rojas with 15 minutes to go.

“It was a little bit tough for James down that left-hand side but we threw him in and I thought it was great for him to get that experience tonight,” said Herbert.

“We started brightly and we had some good opportunities to be in control. We scored a good goal.”

“I liked what I saw in the second half. I thought we were tough, tight, tidy and never let go of it.”

Wellington should have taken the lead in the eighth minute but Brown wasted Ifill’s pinpoint cross into the box by firing into the side netting.

The Phoenix pair combined a few minutes later with Brown playing the role of provider only for Michael Petkovic to make a great save from a close-range Ifill shot.

The breakthrough finally came in the 17th minute with a lovely passage of play that ended with Brown volleying home.

Leo Bertos chipped over the Victory defender and Vince Lia nodded it on to Hearfield. His touch took the ball into the box and Brown made no mistake blasting it past the Victory keeper.

The lead was short-lived though as the Victory immediately took play down the other end and Thompson scored after getting away from Musa and taking a well-weighted pass from Carlos Hernandez.

The Victory began to take a firm grip on the game and their second goal was a superbly constructed passage of play. They retained possession well and played the ball around until they finally created the space they were looking for. Hernandez fed the ball to Celeski out on the right wing and he squared the ball to Kruse for the easiest of tap-ins.

The Phoenix started the second half brightly with Brown having a half-chance a minute after the re-start but the midfielder couldn’t rise high enough to meet Ifill’s cross and the equaliser went begging.

Chances for either side were few and far between until the final 15 minutes.

Herbert had already turned to his bench by then bringing on Nick Ward and Chris Greenacre for Bertos and Daniel respectively.

Some desperate last-ditch defence from Musa was enough to force a miss from Kruse who was clear on goal in the 75th minute.

Then Greenacre created space for Ifill at the other end but he could only shoot straight at Petkovic.

North headed straight at the keeper a couple of minutes later after Ward’s shot had been blocked by Vargas for a corner.

The pressure finally told though and Ifill twisted Vargas inside out before driving low past Petkovic.