Western Sydney 1 Wellington 1

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Breakthrough: Jerome Polenz of the Wanderers celebrates his goal against the Phoenix. Photo: Getty Images

There are few more intimidating sights in Australian sport than a capacity-filled Pirtek Stadium with the Western Sydney Wanderers in full flight.

Upon their return to the “Wanderland” for the first time since last season's semi-final, few expected it would be anything but a triumphant homecoming.

Point well-earned: Jeremy Brockie levelled for the Phoenix.

Point well-earned: Jeremy Brockie levelled for the Phoenix. Photo: Getty Images

Time
90.00
Team
WST
Score
1
Team
WEL
Score
1
Western Sydney FC versus Wellington Phoenix FC
View Match Statistics
Players Polenz (15min) Goals Brockie (60min)

Sunday's visitors, Wellington Phoenix, looked spooked from the kick-off and quickly found themselves 1-0 down. It was all going to script.

But football is a game which punishes profligacy more than any other and as the Wanderers failed to extend their lead, the door was left ajar.

Sensing an opportunity, the Phoenix finally found their missing gears. They visibly lifted in the second half, found their equaliser and, on the balance of play at the final whistle, deservedly so.

Wanderers coach Tony Popovic, a contender for the vacant Socceroos job, was hoping to impress FFA chairman Frank Lowy and chief executive David Gallop, along with 16,294 others watching on. But like Ange Postecoglou and Graham Arnold, a draw was all he could manage.

But there won't be any panic at Wanderers' HQ – they didn't win last season until round four, after all.

Starting Shinji Ono and Tomi Juric after their starring cameos in the grand final replay last week, the hosts looked significantly sharper than their opponents in the early stages.

Numbers were compressed in and around the penalty box in the hope of forcing a quick goal. The pressure was both fierce and instant.

Several chances came and went before the ball looped out to Jerome Polenz, not normally a noted finisher.

However, the right-back stayed composed and put his laces through a volley from the edge of the box. The ball scurried through enough traffic to distract Glen Moss and by the time it reached him, the attempted save was feeble.

The only blip for Western Sydney seemed to come when Aaron Mooy had to be substituted with concussion following a head clash with Phoenix enforcer Manny Muscat. On came Iacopo La Rocca and the show went on as planned.

Wellington actually managed more possessions than the hosts – 51 to 49 per cent – in the opening half but seldom threatened. That Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick felt compelled to change Stein Huysegems for Jason Hicks so early was a clear sign not all was well. Huysegems stormed down the tunnel in disgust.

All seemed well for the home side by half-time, however. Early in the second half they kept probing and how Michael Beauchamp didn't tap home from two inches out defies explanation. He'd soon come to regret it.

With the lead only that solitary goal, Wellington realised they were still a sniff. A brilliant double save from Ante Covic kept the visitors at bay momentarily but signalled a warning for what was about to happen.

Substitute Paul Ifill, on for the otherwise ineffective Kenny Cunningham, skinned Adam D'Apuzzo and then charged to the right before curling a brilliant cross for the fast-arriving Jeremy Brockie.

The New Zealand international wedged himself between Beauchamp and Nikolai Topor-Stanley to clip home a superb finish.

Wanderers' fans felt they were hard done by for two penalty shouts later on but referee Jarred Gillett made the right call to wave play on. Furious though the fans were, they shouldn't have left it to chance.

WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS 1 (Jerome Polenz 15m) drew WELLINGTON PHOENIX 1 (Jeremy Brockie 60m) at Pirtek Stadium. Crowd: 16,294. Referee: Jarred Gillett.