A goal apiece to former Celtic strikers Scott McDonald and Gary Hooper ensured honours were split in an entertaining 1-1 draw between Brisbane Roar and Wellington Phoenix at McDonald Jones Stadium on Wednesday night.
Hooper's 82nd-minute goal from close range brought Wellington level with the Roar who took the lead through an emphatic McDonald strike; the result earned both sides a point as they continued their battle for ascendancy in the top four.
Dylan Wenzel-Halls saw a number of his shots kept out in the opening 45 but the pick of Brisbane's early chances fell to McDonald, who was thwarted an almost certain goal when Te Atawhai Hudson-Wihongi made a tremendous sliding challenge to block his shot from close range.
Jamie Young had already made an athletic stop to keep Steven Taylor at bay earlier in the half but the Roar gloveman produced his best work at the conclusion of the opening stanza, when he leapt backward to drag Hooper's audacious looped shot off the goal line and guide it, somehow, away from the back of the net.
Brisbane swung first in the second half when Jay O'Shea threatened to put his side ahead; he couldn't convert the encouraging chance and neither could Ulises Dávila and Hooper down the other end when their respective chances to score went begging.
The Phoenix were in control and they pushed for an opener but Brisbane broke the deadlock when McDonald scored a superb individual goal, holding off Hudson-Wihongi and Cameron Devlin before firing on his left on the turn past Stefan Marinovic, the ball brushing the side netting as it hurtled into the back of the net.
Despite falling behind Wellington continued to create; Reno Piscopo and Dávila were both thwarted by the terrific Young who was proving a man possessed as the game dragged on.
Nestled between those two chances was Wellington's best of the game which turned into a point-blank miss in front of an open goal from Hooper, who nicked Liberato Cacace's brilliant cross past the wrong side of the post.
It seemed as though it wasn't Hooper's night but the former Celtic striker made amends with less than ten minutes to play when Cacace sent a header toward goal which rebounded off the post into Hooper's path to brush into the back of the net and bring the 'Nix back level.
Both sides were presented with one last chance apiece in the dying embers of the game but neither Matthew Ridenton or Jaushua Sotirio could write their names up in lights, which meant the entertaining clash ended in a 1-1 draw as the Phoenix and Roar remained in third and fourth place respectively on the Hyundai A-League table.
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Taylor header keeps Young on his toes
A looping corner taken to the back post worked in favour of Wellington's Steven Taylor who found himself in a favourable matchup with Macaulay Gillesphey, who he rose above to direct a header toward Brisbane's goal.
The ball looked as though it would drop over Young's head into the net but Brisbane's goalkeeper got fingers to it, tipping the ball over the bar and out for a corner.
Wenzel-Halls can't finish well-worked Roar move with a goal
Brisbane's neat interplay in their front third took McDonald out wide but his touch, turn and pass to Wenzel-Halls were all of the highest class as he kept the attack alive and sent the young Roar striker in on goal.
Wenzel-Halls shrugged off Dávila and squared up to Stefan Marinovic but shot directly at the Phoenix gloveman, who reached out a fist to push the ball over the bar.
Hudson-Wihongi's goal-saving tackle denies McDonald a certain goal
McDonald looked certain to score after he was played over the top of Wellington's defence by a lobbed Tom Aldred pass.
One touch took McDonald eye-to-eye with Marinovic but out of nowhere came Hudson-Wihongi, who slid across to deflect McDonald's poked shot away from danger.
Young's reactions tested again by Hooper's audacious chip
Wellington's best chance of the half came in its final minute when Hooper chested the ball down in the box and prodded a chipped strike off the inside of his boot which looked set to dip over Young's head and into the net.
Hooper directed the ball perfectly toward the top corner of goal but Young somehow leapt backwards, almost grabbing the ball out of the air and pushing it off the goal line and away from danger.
McDonald lashes opener out of the top draw into the back of the net
In a contest between two quality sides it was only fitting a goal of the highest order would turn the tide in Brisbane's favour.
That goal came from McDonald who scored his sixth goal in as many games when he controlled the ball in the box, turned off Hudson-Wihongi and past Devlin to crack a venomous strike off his left boot into the back of the net.
Golden chance goes begging for Hooper and the 'Nix
Alex Rufer's pinpoint pass had found Cacace down the left flank and the full-back's cross flew past Young to find Hooper unmarked at the back post.
It seemed easier to score than miss but miss the target was precisely what Hooper did, as the ball shaved his boot and missed the target, going out instead for a goal kick.
Hooper atones to bring Phoenix level
He'd already wasted a golden chance to equalise but Hooper wasn't willing to let another go begging when Cacace's header bounced off the post and fell directly into his path.
There were many bodies between Hooper and the goal but his strike found its way past them all to hand Wellington the equaliser they deserved for their second-half dominance.
Brisbane Roar v Sydney FC
When: Monday, August 10
Where: ANZ Stadium
Kick-off: 7.30pm (AEST)
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