A-League: Short-handed Wellington Phoenix held to controversial draw by Macarthur FC

Wellington Phoenix have held on to draw 1-1 with A-League newcomers Macarthur FC, after they were reduced to 10 men by a red card to Alex Rufer early in the second half.

The capital-based side dominated the opening 45 minutes and held a one-goal lead at the break, after striker David Ball slotted home in the 39th minute.

With the Phoenix cruising at 1-0 up after 64 minutes, midfielder Rufer was called for a foul on Macarthur midfielder Denis Genreau,  

Video assistant referee Kris Griffiths-Jones asked referee Stephen Lucas to have a second look at the tackle for a potential lash-out by the Phoenix player. 

After consulting the video monitor on the sideline, Lucas made the decision to send Rufer off for what looked like a tangle of legs.

Five minutes later, Macarthur made the extra man count, when Markel Susaeta equalised.

Wellington Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay thinks they "were cruising" and "playing some really good football", before the red-card decision.

"That red card changed the game for us, as I think we were quite comfortable in the first half and we had them on the ropes," he says. "The boys played some really good football and it’s disappointing that a decision like that changed the game."

Wellington came out of the blocks quickly, learning from their timid start last time out against Sydney.

The New Zealand side made two changes after last week's loss, and brought in star players Tomer Hemed and captain Ulises Davila, whose inclusions made a noticeable difference. 

The Phoenix had a host of glorious chances in the opening 15 minutes, with the attacking quartet of Clayton Lewis, David Ball and Davila all looking lively.

Talay was happy with his side's improved performance. 

"We pinned them in the first half and we were on the front foot from the first minute of the game, creating some good opportunities, so I'm pleased with the way the players performed."

The Phoenix side got their reward after 39 minutes, through a free-flowing sweeping attack that started with Davila played a beautiful ball to put left-back James McGarry behind the Bulls defence. 

McGarry cut it back to Ball, who buried his shot to give the Phoenix, playing in a new teal away kit, a deserved lead.

The home side came out determined in the second spell and created attacking opportunities.

Lachie Rose was the Bulls best player, forcing goalie Stefan Marinovic into a smart stop, before Phoenix defender Luke DeVere made a crucial tackle to stop the hard-running Rose after the tackle that led to the red card.

Macarthur took just five minutes to level the scores after Rufer's departure. A lovely pass from Beñat put wing Markel Susaeta through on goal and he smashed it past Marinovic.

Talay immediately replaced Davila with defender Michael Ridenton in an attempt to preserve the lead.

The plan worked with Wellington managing to withstand their opponents' assault over the closing 20-plus minutes to emerge with a hard-won point.

By the end of the game, Macarthur had unleashed 26 shots on  goal to 12 from the Phoenix.

The result produced their first competition point of the new season. Their next opportunity for points comes when they face Newcastle Jets in a 'home' fixture at Wollongong Showground on January 24.