Friday, August 13, 2010

Wellington and Gold Coast fight out a 3-3 thriller

Wellington Phoenix began their 2010-11 A-League campaign with a 3-3 home draw against Gold Coast United before 8,300 fans at a rain-drenched WestPac Stadium in Wellington this evening.

The rain came down in buckets and the game sometimes resembled a water polo match, but the pitch was in excellent condition and did not cut up at all.

Both sides deserve credit for the way in which they fought out this thrilling match in difficult conditions.

It was Wellington’s 19th undefeated game in a row at the stadium.

Paul Ifill put Wellington ahead in the 6th minute after a cross from the right by Leo Bertos. Ifill controlled the cross and outwitted four defenders on the edge of the box before beating Glenn Moss with a low drive.

Gold Coast United almost drew level two minutes later, but Caravella’s shot hit the outside of the right-hand post.

They did equalise in the 36th minute through New Zealand international Shane Smeltz, who directed a superb header from Jason Culina’s free-kick from the left beyond the goalkeeper and inside the far post.

Chris Greenacre restored Wellington’s lead a minute later after a poor clearing punch by Moss. The ball was headed back across goal by Tim Brown and Greenacre smashed it home from the edge of the 6-yard box.

Four minutes after the resumption, a desperate tackle by Ben Sigmund rescued Wellington as man-of-the-match Joel Porter was on the verge of scoring.

Wellington increased their lead in the 56th minute after a free-kick awarded for an atrocious tackle on Ifill by Thwaites. The ball was floated into the box and headed on for Greenacre to volley home from close range.

Smeltz hit the post for the visitors on the hour after a glorious left-wing cross, but Wellington cleared the loose ball.

Smeltz made it a goal the difference in the 74th minute after Bertos carelessly gave the ball away in midfield. Porter released Culina down the right and his cross was turned in by Smeltz to make it 3-2.

Gold Coast were not yet finished and they managed to grab a share of the points three minutes from the end when another accurate Porter cross from the left was headed home by Culina.

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