Late goal snares Phoenix a draw in capital
Dani Sanchez's second goal in as many weeks has earned the Wellington Phoenix a 1-1 draw with A-League leaders Central Coast at Westpac Stadium today.
The Spanish midfielder missed the opening 10 rounds of the season as he recovered from knee surgery but he is making up for lost time.
Just as the Phoenix seemed consigned to their third straight loss, Sanchez popped up in the 84th minute to head in a Benjamin Totori cross and grab his club a point.
Earlier, the league's leading scorer, Daniel McBreen, earned a new contract with the Mariners after notching his 10th goal of the season.
The Phoenix were again punished late in the first half, as McBreen tapped in after Mark Paston had made a top save to stop Tom Rogic's thunderbolt.
There were cries of offside, and indeed it was close, but the linesman's decision to allow the goal appeared to be the correct one.
The result leaves the Phoenix in seventh place, and while large patches of the game were again uninspiring, they deserve credit for hanging in and finishing with a late surge.
Not many teams have got points off Central Coast this season and the Phoenix have a good chance to start turning their disappointing season around with another home game against struggling Melbourne Heart on Thursday.
Ricki Herbert's side had started brightly with Kiwi teenagers Tyler Boyd and Louis Fenton both prominent with their pace and endeavour down the flanks.
But, as they had in a 1-0 win earlier this season, the Mariners were happy to soak up the early pressure and back themselves to eventually break down a side lacking confidence.
Sure enough, the Phoenix began to run out of ideas, and it looked like another steady diet of hopeful balls into the box would be dealt with by the league's most stingy defence.
The Phoenix clearly became frustrated with themselves and Kiwi referee Peter O'Leary - who did them no favours - and things were summed up when Boyd and Jeremy Brockie collided with one another and ended up sprawled on the turf.
The crowd of 5961 were also getting antsy with the performance but Sanchez's strike, and an exciting cameo from substitute Totori, gave them some cause for cheer.
McBreen's goal means the veteran striker will be back next season, with Mariners coach Graham Arnold dangling the 10-goal extension target earlier in the season.
Elsewhere, Western Sydney - who had only scored eight goals in their previous 11 games - raised eyebrows by belting high-flying Adelaide 6-1.
And Steven McGarry scored a cracking long-range goal as Perth beat Brisbane 1-0 in new Roar coach Mike Mulvey's first game in charge.