Two-goal hero Jeremy Brockie says the Wellington Phoenix always believed they would beat an understrength Melbourne Heart tonight, despite copping two early goals.
Golgol Mebrahtu's 14th minute free kick and an Andrew Durante own goal two minutes later was the worst possible start for a Phoenix side expected to dominate the struggling visitors, who were missing four of their best players.
But instead of hanging their heads, the hosts roared back to win 3-2 in front of a boisterous holiday crowd of 6410 at Westpac Stadium.
Louis Fenton kicked things off in the 21st minute with a tidy finish and Brockie stepped up in the second half to score his eighth and ninth goals of the season.
"We went 2-0 down but we didn't really deserve that scoreline," Brockie said.
"The front three, we felt like it was a game that we were always going to come back and take something. We went into halftime 2-1 down and the mood was still positive in the changing rooms. We always knew we were going to come back and we probably got the penalty at a good time, to make sure that we had enough time to go for the third."
Entertainment has been in short supply at Westpac this season but while it wasn't always high quality, there was hardly a dull moment tonight.
Anything other than a Phoenix win would have been a disaster and the three points lifted them to a share of sixth with the Newcastle Jets.
Newcastle have the opportunity to nudge back ahead in their game against Melbourne Victory tonight, while the Phoenix travel to Brisbane to play the Roar on New Year's Day.
Mebrahtu set the tone for an exciting match by whipping a free kick into the top-right corner as Mark Paston stood rooted to the spot.
Durante had given away the free kick by clipping Jason Hoffman's heels on the edge of the box.
Durante's woes continued as he turned a David Williams strike into his own net but that only served as a wake-up call for the home side.
First Vince Lia created Fenton's second Phoenix goal by winning the ball and slipping it through to the young Kiwi who curled it past Clint Bolton.
Brockie then leveled the score with a penalty hard and low to Bolton's left.
Michael Marrone was judged to have pushed Fenton with enough force for referee Shaun Evans to point to the spot.
By this stage the Phoenix were running amok and Brockie picked his spot nicely to shoot past Bolton after Dani Sanchez's shot was blocked.
Brockie joked afterwards that he had used up his bad penalties in training.
"I was practicing them [on Wednesday] and Pasty was saving a couple actually so there were a few bad thoughts going through my head.
"But I feel confident at the moment and hopefully we can keep going and moving up the ladder."
Heart coach John Aloisi was gracious in defeat, admitting things went downhill badly after Fenton's goal.
"We made a mistake and we just folded, the whole team," Aloisi said.
"The Phoenix just dominated us and deserved to win the game."
it past Clint Bolton for his second Phoenix goal.
It always felt like more goals were just around the corner and Paston and Ben Sigmund were both required to snuff out Heart attacking raids.
The Phoenix saw plenty of the ball, but Tony Lochhead and Tyler Boyd in particular were guilty of some poor delivery.
The Heart, meanwhile, posed a constant threat on the counter attack as the Phoenix defenders pushed up aggressively.
As the clock ticked down into the final 20 minutes, Brockie was able to level the score with a penalty hard and low to Bolton's left.
Michael Marrone was judged to have pushed Fenton in the air as he tumbled to the turf; there was not a lot of contact but it was enough for referee Shaun Evans to point to the spot.
By this stage the Phoenix were running amok and Brockie then picked his spot nicely to shoot past Bolton after Sanchez's shot was blocked by a Heart defender.
The Phoenix now travel to Brisbane to play the Roar on New Year's Day.
The two-time defending champions look to be getting their season back on the rails having beaten Adelaide United 1-0 on Boxing Day.
- © Fairfax NZ News