Melbourne City FC has been held to a draw for the first time this season, with Sunday’s clash against Wellington at AAMI Park ending 2-2.
A Jamie Maclaren penalty and Marco Tilio strike had City ahead in the first half before a fast-finishing Phoenix outfit saw it do enough to earn a share of the points.
Head Coach Patrick Kisnorbo made one change to his starting XI as Taras Gomulka returned after having served his suspension last match. Andrew Nabbout moved to the bench, while as a result of Gomulka’s inclusion, Mathew Leckie moved back out to the wing.
Jamie Maclaren took the armband while usual captain Scott Jamieson returned via the substitutes bench after his late withdrawal last week.
Starting XI: 1. Tom GLOVER (GK), 25. Callum TALBOT, 22. Curtis GOOD, 6. Thomas LAM, 38. Jordan BOS, 13. Aiden O’NEILL, 16. Taras GOMULKA, 14. Valon BERISHA, 23. Marco TILIO, 7. Mathew LECKIE, 9. Jamie MACLAREN (C).
Substitutes: 33. Matthew SUTTON (GK), 2. Scott GALLOWAY, 3. Scott JAMIESON, 8. Richard VAN DER VENNE, 15. Andrew NABBOUT, 18. Jordon HALL, 36. Kerrin STOKES.
It was a balanced start to the contest with neither side able to grab a clear handle on the momentum from the opening whistle.
Led by its front three, City pressing game was what managed to get it on top, giving the Wellington defence no time on the ball and forcing turnovers in dangerous areas of the pitch.
Kisnorbo kept the faith in Tilio after he received a first start of the season last week and the 21-year-old took the opportunity with both hands.
A driving run down the right saw him find space in the box to get a shot away, with Wellington defender Tim Payne desperately throwing his body in the firing line to try and block the attempt, but was only able to do so with his arm and the referee spotted the clear handball.
As usual, Jamie Maclaren stepped up for the spot kick and made no mistake, sending the keeper the wrong way and coolly finishing into the back of the net.
City would control the remainder of the half as Mathew Leckie also got involved in the action, having plenty of nice moments as he continued a strong start to the season.
City’s press was at its best as the clock ticked into the 34th minute, Aiden O’Neill eventually the man to win the ball before Leckie picked up the deflection. After a few touches driving forward, he played a lofted ball through the Wellington defence to put it on a silver platter for Tilio to slam his first goal of the season into the back of the net.
The early moments of the second half were relatively uneventful but a triple change and subsequent change of shape from the Phoenix was ultimately what changed the game.
Wellington then had the ball in the back of the net in the 64th minute but the linesman’s flag was quickly up for off-side.
Fans around AAMI Park thought City may’ve had a golden opportunity to make it three and kill off the game in the 73rd when Maclaren was bought down in the box.
While referee Adam Kersey originally waved away the penalty shouts, it wasn’t long until he was summoned over to the VAR screen for another look.
As fans held their breath around the stadium, the original decision was eventually upheld and Maclaren was denied a second penalty of the night.
It would prove to be a pivotal moment as the Phoenix struck twice in the final 15 minutes to level scores and go back to Wellington with a point.
City will be back home at AAMI Park again next weekend, set to take on Perth Glory on Saturday evening. Click here to get your tickets!