Matija Ljujic thunderbolt steals draw for Wellington Phoenix against Western Sydney Wanderers

  • 13/01/2018

Serbian playmaker Matija Ljujic's second-half thunderbolt has secured a fighting 1-1 A-League home draw for Wellington against Western Sydney.

The Wanderers led Saturday's round-16 clash 1-0 at halftime, courtesy of a Brendon Santalab volley, but Ljujic's 75th-minute strike levelled the scores in a match which finished frantically as both teams hunted the win.

Wellington created a handful of solid early chances, managing nine shots on goal in the first half to Western Sydney's six, but the clinical finish they'd been missing all season continued to elude them.

In contrast, the Wanderers dominated possession and were more measured in the middle of the park, where former Phoenix midfielder Roly Bonevacia looked well in control.

Josh Clisby and Raul Llorente provided plenty of options out wide and Spanish maestro Oriol Riera forced a couple of scrambling saves from Phoenix keeper Lewis Italiano.

It was a 28th-minute Llorente free-kick which set up the Wanderers' first goal, the 31-year-old left back curling a perfectly placed ball into the box.

The scrambling Wellington defence failed to clear, and Santalab volleyed home for his second goal of the season.

Phoenix coach Darije Kalezic made the expected changes at halftime, introducing twin new signings Nathan Burns and Ljujic for Michael McGlinchey and central defender Marco Rossi respectively.

The same set-up had worked well in Wednesday's 2-1 win over Melbourne Victory, and again clicked early but without reward until the 75th minute when Ljujic laced a left-foot thunderbolt from outside the box past Vedran Janjetovic.

The Wanderers' goalie nearly conceded a second barely a minute later, charging out of his area to clear the ball, which fell to Ljujic whose long-range speculator just failed to find the net.

Since losing 5-0 early last month to Sydney FC, the Wanderers have collected 11 points from a possible 18, and are well on the way to consolidating their position inside the top six.

Wellington are still at the bottom of the ladder, but with a win and a draw in the past three days, look to have finally discovered some momentum.