A second-half brace from Wellington Phoenix striker Jeremy Brockie completed a gutsy 3-2 comeback against the struggling Melbourne Heart
|By MARCUS ANSELM
Jeremy Brockie scored twice as Wellington Phoenix came from behind to defeat Melbourne Heart 3-2 at Westpac Stadium on Thursday.
Two goals in a minute in the first half appeared to have boosted Heart's bid for a first A-League win on New Zealand soil.
But Brockie's double ensured the hosts took three points from an exciting encounter and wrapped up their reply after falling 2-0 down after 15 minutes.
Heart forward Golgol Mehbratu struck a perfect free kick to open the scoring.
Andrew Durante became referee Shaun Evans' third yellow card of a busy night after 14 minutes for a foul on the edge of the box.
Mehbratu capitalised expertly with an exquisite set piece. And Durante's evening worsened just 30 seconds later. The Phoenix captain deflected David Williams' cross past Mark Paston and into his own goal.
Five minutes later, Louis Fenton then hit back as Wellington sought to restore parity.
The young winger was on hand to finish after the industrious Vince Lia dispossessed Jason Hoffman.
And Brockie's second half single-handedly edged his team ahead.
Wellington, unchanged from their weekend draw against Central Coast Mariners, had created the first clear chance of the night and had been in the ascendant until the Heart double whammy.
Dani Sanchez, the goal scorer against the league leaders, tapped Brockie's cross wide of the near post after three minutes.
That duo combined again in the 10th minute, after a slalom-like run from the New Zealand international, but the Spaniard could not get on the end of his colleague's low pass.
The Victorians came back immediately with their quick-fire double silencing the crowd.
The Phoenix reply sparked the team back into life and they dominated possession in search of an equaliser. Full-back Leo Bertos went closest with a cross on the half hour which almost caught out Heart goalkeeper Clint Bolton.
Paston denied Josip Tadic before Brockie again tested Bolton from Tony Lochhead's cross on half time.
Wellington again dominated the opening exchanges of the second period.
Sanchez went closest to equalising with a 55th minute volley which was easily collected by Bolton.
Their persistence was rewarded midway through the second half, when Evans ruled Michael Marrone unfairly shoved Fenton, and Brockie coolly dispatched the resultant penalty.
Heart captain and ex-Phoenix midfielder Fred missed a chance to restore his team's advantage soon after.
His profligacy was punished moments later when Brockie pounced on a ricocheted Sanchez drive to finish.
Matt Thompson and Sam Mitchinson missed late chances to level, meaning a third successive defeat for second-bottom Heart left them looking over their shoulders ahead of their opening clash of 2013 against Newcastle.
A second win in five games set up Wellington for their tough trip to champions Brisbane on New Year's Day.