An overturned penalty cost Brisbane Roar dearly as Wellington Phoenix scrapped their way to a scoreless draw at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
The draw halted Brisbane’s four-game winning streak in a match which might have lacked goals, but wasn’t short on excitement.
Both teams ran themselves to a standstill in front of a vocal 7774-strong crowd, with chances coming at both ends right until the final whistle.
Referee Stephen Lucas’s decision to overturn a first-half penalty proved a key moment for the Roar.
In the 32nd minute, central defender Andrew Durante was judged to have handled in the box as he headed a clearance after a Thomas Broich header rocketed back off the crossbar.
But referee Lucas overturned the decision after consulting his assistant, ruling instead that Henrique had pushed the Wellington skipper and then awarded a free kick to the home team.
Lucas’s change of heart left Roar coach John Aloisi confused, disappointed but ultimately diplomatic.
“My view from the bench was I didn’t see the push,” he said.
“Thanks to the big screen, I watched it again and still didn’t see the push.
“But the assistant referee obviously saw something.”
Aloisi said Lucas was only 10-15 metres from play, with the assistant referee further away.
“It was a bit strange he overruled the referee, I haven’t seen that too often,” he said.
“I find it strange and I’m sure that once he looks back at it, he’ll realise he made a mistake.”
Unsurprisingly, Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick offered a slightly more positive spin on events.
“I thought it was terrific that the referee went over to the linesman and spoke to him and made a decision that was a right decision,” Merrick said.
“It’s just a pity we don’t get more of that – the referee making a decision, then consulting a linesman so they could all have a think about it.
“I thought it was a brave decision, and the right decision.”
The Roar, missing leading goal scorers Jamie Maclaren and Brandon Borrello on Olyroos duty, still top the table with 28 points, one clear of Western Sydney Wanderers.
Wellington, missing seven front-line players to injury and suspension this week, sit seventh on 16 points, one behind sixth-placed Adelaide.
They haven’t won since downing defending champions Melbourne Victory on December 5, and have scavenged just two points from 15 available over the last five matches.