A late equaliser from Melbourne Victory denied the Wellington Phoenix a valuable away win as the teams played out a 1-all draw in their A-League football clash in Melbourne.
Ola Toivonen salvaged a share of the points for Melbourne Victory, preserving the A-League champions’ unbeaten streak.
Victory, again without star Keisuke Honda, looked set for a first loss in eight matches when David Williams struck a second-half opener for the Nix at AAMI Park.
Instead, Kevin Muscat’s side forced a way through Wellington’s impressive rearguard with Toivonen diverting Terry Antonis’ cross-cum-shot for a share of the spoils.
In addition to Honda’s absence, Nick Ansell was injured just 12 minutes into Friday night’s match, clutching at his hamstring after attempting to block Roy Krishna’s shot.
Ansell could join Honda, Raul Baena and Georg Niedermeier on a growing Victory injury list.
His injury sent Leigh Broxham to defence and allowed Josh Hope to see his longest spell of A-League football in his young career.
But it could also give Muscat headaches ahead of a busy January.
At least Victory showed the resilience to defy the in-form Nix, who arrived in Melbourne on a three-match winning run of their own.
Victory bossed possession but Wellington had the best opportunities to break through; none better than Sarpreet Singh’s early one-on-one effort which was smothered by Lawrence Thomas.
Mandi also struck a free kick just wide of the Victory goal frame, while at the other end James Troisi was just centimetres from tapping in Kosta Barbarouses’ sharp centre.
The longer the score stayed at 0-0, the more likely it seemed Wellington would spring a surprise.
Roy Krishna used his pace to get around Thomas Deng and strike wide on the hour mark.
Then up stepped Williams, who humiliated Storm Roux by selling him a dummy and curling home at the back post.
The stunning strike was Williams’ second goal in as many games, ending his 22-match A-League goalscoring drought in style.
Muscat threw on Kenny Athiu for Troisi, also struggling after a knee knock, to challenge Wellington in the air.
Instead, it was his other beanpole striker that earned Victory a point, the Swede scoring for the fourth consecutive match.
Muscat said he expected Wellington to play them on the break but wasn’t satisfied with how his understrength side responded.
“They want the game to come onto them … they want to transition very quickly and they’re very good at it,” he said.
“We weren’t too happy with the way we dealt with that. It gave them energy and oxygen.”
Counterpart Mark Rudan said his players were down in the dressing room after losing the lead but saluted further progress in his team, which now sits fourth.
“I’m a little bit disappointed. I’m a bit greedy as well, when you go 1-0 up you want to win,” he said.
“We’re showing some good signs now and we’re creating some good chances. I thought in the first half we were the better side.”