TODAY |

Wellington Phoenix fall to late defeat in thrilling contest

The Wellington Phoenix have fallen to a late 3-2 defeat to Melbourne City in a hugely entertaining A-League contest.

Teenage substitute Marco Tilio nabbed the winner for City seven minutes from the end in a match littered with goalmouth scrambles and near-misses at Wollongong's WIN Stadium.

The win lifted last season's runners-up back into second, two points adrift of surprise leaders Central Coast Mariners.

It was a welcome return to the winners' circle for City after their defeat last Thursday against Western United had ended a run of six straight victories.

City could have put the match out of sight by the midway point but had to make do with a 2-1 margin at the interval as Curtis Good and Jamie Maclaren netted either side of a goal from import Tomer Hemed.

Phoenix's Oliver Sail was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers and he somehow made a crucial block from Craig Noone.

It proved a key moment as Mexican Ulises Davila drew the New Zealanders level just moments later, 11 minutes after the second-half restart.

It was a minor miracle that Phoenix remained in the contest at halftime with Sail called into action on several occasions and City denied a strong penalty claim after Florin Berenguer went to ground.

Maclaren displayed his predatory penalty area instincts with a superb finish just on halftime, while Good had earlier opened the scoring by outmuscling the defence for a close-range header from a corner.

Israeli Hemed finished off a neat team move on 39 minutes to keep the Phoenix in the contest.

Then it was the turn of Davila to fire home with a slide-rule finish inside the far post after the break.

Suddenly, the scoreboard as well as the momentum was even.

Phoenix created several half-openings and gave City several nervy moments as the match flowed from end to end.

In the end though, it was 19-year-old Tilio who was involved in the decisive moment of the match by heading home Connor Metcalfe's cross.

It was something of a bittersweet outing for Phoenix who, despite the brave comeback, remain seven points away from the top-six.

"It was very disappointing for us because we really wanted three points to stay in touch," said Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay, who also praised Sail for his performance.

"I think Oli was our best player. It's not a good thing when your goalkeeper is your best player, but he kept us in the game.

"Since we chucked him in I think Oli's been playing some really good football."