A-League 2017/18: Wellington Phoenix nab first point in season opener

Everything happened early as two headers saw the Wellington Phoenix and Adelaide United draw 1-1 in their season opener at Westpac Stadium.

Roy Krishna captained an Andrew Durante-less Wellington Phoenix as new coaches Marco Kurz and Darije Kalezic got a taste of A League football for the first time. Adelaide’s German in charge had chosen his Spaniard Isaias to take charge of the Reds.

Dario Vidosic wasted no time introducing himself to the Nix faithful with a well taken header from a Roy Krishna cross after just five minutes. Paul Izzo could do nothing about his looping header and it nestled in the far corner to the delight of the yellow fever.

10 minutes gone and it was 1-1, Nikolai Mileusnic crossed for Johan Absalonsen to reply with a header of his own for the visitors. Young debutant keeper Keegan Smith had no chance.

The match stabilised for the next 20 minutes, as the teams got over their adrenaline fuelled opening minutes and settled into a slower more organised rhythm. There were no further goals in the first half, and the teams went into the sheds level at one apiece.

Debutant Keegan Smith collects a ball at the edge of the box. CAMERON MCINTOSH/PHOTOMAC

The second half continued as the first had finished, with the teams battling in midfield and not creating anything in the final third for most of the half. Handful of Adelaide’s players spent a lot of the period on the ground, with various ailments ranging from twinged muscles, heavy collisions and cramp taking them to the deck. With just over ten minutes to go first Smith and then Izzo were finally called into action, both making decent saves, as the game found its spark and fresh legs were introduced.

The game eventually concluded with the scores level as two teams with a distinct European influence finished up a tight tactical contest with an even ledger.

Professional football returns to NZ

And the 8,154 who turned up at Wellington’s Westpac Stadium on Sunday afternoon proved that it had been missed. Travelling fans are always a dime a dozen in Wellington, so the crowd turnout was surprisingly decent and spoke volumes of the home fans and clubs effort to drum up support. That being said, up in the media box the trains pulling into Wellington station were louder at times than the nervy Yellow Fever, and the Phoenix support outfit needs to pull together to create a better atmosphere in the next outing.

Newcomers prove their worth for both sides

Vidosic scored a crucial header, Abbas, Paracki, Mullen, Galloway and Abbas all performed well and 18 year old keeper Smith acquitted himself well at A League level. A sight which would have made Phoenix number one Lewis Italiano frustrated from his seat on the bench. The young keeper made one key save in the 77th minute from a close range header and looked the part for the majority of the match.