Third draw for Phoenix in A-League v Perth
That elusive first win of the season continued to evade Wellington Phoenix on Saturday as they battled to a 1-1 draw with Perth Glory at AMI Stadium in Christchurch.
Three draws and two losses from five matches leave the Phoenix near the bottom of the A-League table despite playing some of their best football in recent seasons.
All six All Whites on the paddock finished the game unscathed, just five days out from New Zealand's opening World Cup qualifier against Mexico in Mexico City.
Perth's Shane Smeltz, still working his way back from hip surgery, played the opening 60 minutes while Glen Moss, Leo Bertos, Jeremy Brockie, Ben Sigmund and skipper Andrew Durante all came through the match injury-free.
Fourth on the A-League ladder, Perth hadn't conceded a goal since their opening-round 3-1 loss to Adelaide United, but it took the ninth-placed Phoenix less than five minutes to destroy their clean sheet.
Costa Rican Carlos Hernandez whipped in a pinpoint free-kick from the left for skipper Durante to shade home on the far post.
The Glory worked their way into the match slowly, but still struggled for quality ball inside their penalty area as Wellington's back four were quick to shut down time and space on the ball.
Brazilian Sidnei Sciola Moraes, who had troubled with his pace and quick feet down the right earlier on, set up Perth's equaliser with a blazing run down the left as the half-hour mark neared.
He drew Moss, kept the Phoenix defence scrambling then slipped the pass for Japanese striker Ryo Nagai to volley home.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick tightened his back four after the break, benching Louis Fenton shifting Manny Muscat to right back and bringing on midfielder Jason Hicks.
Perth tested the new combination, but couldn't break through, although Jamie Maclaren came tantalisingly close.
Evergreen striker Paul Ifill, playing his 100th game for the Phoenix, provided a real injection of pace and guile when he came on after 65 minutes but, although opportunities were created, the finishing wasn't there.