Wellington Phoenix 0-0 Newcastle Jets: Spoils shared in Napier
There were plenty of chances at both ends but neither team proved capable of forcing the all-important breakthrough at McLean Park
By Emma Stoney
Wellington Phoenix and Newcastle Jets are still searching for their first wins of the season after they played out a 0-0 draw at McLean Park in Napier on Sunday.
Both sides had their chances with Carlos Hernandez and Ruben Zadkovich hitting the woodwork and goalkeepers Glen Moss and Mark Birighitti also forced into making crucial saves.
The stalemate was just the third in 20 matches between the two sides and leaves them in the bottom half of the table after three rounds.
Of more concern for Jets coach Gary van Egmond will be the fact his team has yet to score a goal.
Andrew Hoole, Josh Brillante and Ben Kantarovski were all brought into the Jets' starting XI and the former pair in particular were busy in the opening 45 minutes.
Hoole wasted little time getting into the action with a strong run in the fourth minute, but he then fired his shot straight at Moss in the Phoenix goal.
Hernandez was also well involved in the early exchanges, unleashing a fierce strike which beat Birighitti but not the crossbar.
Paul Ifill, in his first start of the season, also tried to get himself involved but was generally well contained.
As the half wore on, Hernandez drifted out of the game as the Jets started to take control, with Hoole and Brillante working well down the right flank and putting Reece Caira under pressure.
The visitors also didn't allow the Phoenix players any time or space on the ball.
However, the Jets couldn't turn that dominance into goals. Their best chance of the first half came in the 19th minute when Zadkovich saw his shot come back off the crossbar before Moss then Leo Bertos combined to deny Scott Neville twice.
The Jets' finishing continued to let them down as Brillante blazed another strike well over before a poor touch by Adam Taggart in the box saw him waste a pinpoint pass from Zadkovich which had split the Phoenix defence.
Just before half-time it looked as though Newcastle's wastefulness in front of goal would come back and bite them as defensive errors allowed the Phoenix to finish the half the stronger team.
Stein Huysegems thought he had broken the deadlock in the 43rd minute as the Phoenix players claimed the striker's header - from a lovely floated ball into the box by Hernandez - had crossed the line before Birighitti got a hand to it.
But the goal wasn't given and their protests were waved away.
The Belgian then got on the end of a Hernandez free-kick only to fire it just wide.
Ifill was replaced at the start of the second half by Spaniard Albert Riera as coach Ernie Merrick looked to kick-start his side.
But it was another Hernandez free-kick which put the Jets under pressure as Andrew Durante got free in the box, Birighitti pulling off another superb save to deny the Phoenix skipper.
Hernandez then saw another effort come back off the upright with the Jets keeper well out of position.
In the 65th minute Zadkovich was replaced by Jacob Pepper, although it was unclear whether or not it was a tactical substitution or injury-related.
Both coaches turned to their benches with 20 minutes to go in the hope of finding some way to break the deadlock.
Hoole was replaced by James Brown for the Jets and Jason Hicks came on for Vince Lia in the Phoenix midfield before veteran Michael Bridges replaced Adam Taggart in the Newcastle attack and Kenny Cunningham came on for Huysegems, but it was all to no avail.
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