Phoenix in Thriller at Stadium
Fourteen and half thousand of us watched the Phoenix get their A-League campaign under way with a thrilling 2-2 draw at Westpac stadium this afternoon. An estimated (by myself and a couple of other self-appointed experts) couple of thousand more were stuck in queues for the first quarter and gave up and went home.
Yes, it was another triumph of event ticketing with the combination of a huge walk-up due to the good weather plus a huge pick-up queue for those that booked by phone yesterday causing chaos on Fran Wilde Walk.
If it hadn’t been for Sky and other Asia-Pacific broadcast commitments I’m sure the kick-off would have been held back but, as it was, those of us in our seats were treated to an entertaining spectacle with the Phoenix saving their best for a sensational last 15 minutes.
[Match report after the jump]
A boneheaded handball by Cleberson in the first-half gave A-League champions Melbourne Victory a penalty and thus a first-half lead. Phoenix came out strongly after the interval but got hit on the break by a goal from Victory striker Danny Allsopp with about half an hour to go. Some inspired substitutions from coach Herbert saw the Phoenix look to get something out of the game as Victory tired.
Daniel made up for his first-half penalty miss (back off the cross-bar) with a headed goal from close range on 79 minutes and then on 84 minutes a Smeltz header was deflected in off a Victory defender. Phoenix had two chances to wrap the game up after that but a Brownlie shot hit the post and Smeltz headed narrowly over.
The buzz coming out was enormous and I overheard several soccer-moms saying it was the best football game they had ever been to and they would be taking the kids again next time. It was all pretty thrilling and the Phoenix players are getting the PR side of things right by applauding the huge crowd after the game.