This week the latest face of New Zealand football was unveiled as the Wellington Phoenix launched their new crest.

Slicker, minimalist and even featuring the Maori inscription of ‘E Rere Te Keo’, the new Phoenix crest certainly looks and feels the part.

Sadly, football across the Tasman hasn’t always had the best image, on and off the pitch. The Phoenix themselves have struggled for results in recent years and combined with a poor average crowd have earned the ire of the Football Federation Australia.

Overall however, the Phoenix have been a life-saver for Kiwi football and this week we looked back at their first ever outing against the Melbourne Victory on a typically windy afternoon at Westpac Stadium some 10 years ago.

The Match

The 26th of August ushered in a new era for football in New Zealand as the Phoenix met the Victory at the ‘cake tin’ in their inaugural A-League hit-out. Victory had, of course, done the double the season previous and entered the game against the new kids on the block as overwhelming favourites.

The Phoenix certainly started with intent having two players in the referee’s book in the first 20 minutes. Unfortunately, one of those was for Cleberson after the Brazilian defender handled a cross in the box. Skipper Kevin Muscat tucked away the resulting penalty.

The expectant crowd of 14, 421 would have to wait another 40 minutes for the second goal and when it arrived they were not happy. Victory’s Danny Allsopp producing a clean finish in the bottom right-hand corner.

Two goals down against the title favourites one could have forgiven the Phoenix for bunkering down and focusing on damage limitation. However, Ricki Herbert’s men had no intention whatsoever of disappearing and instead took the game to their navy-blue opponents. Eleven minutes from time and they pulled one back after another Brazilian in the form of Daniel got his head to a corner kick and sent it past Victory keeper Michael Theo.

Cue delirium inside Westpac four minutes later as Shane Smeltz (who else?) evened the scores with a perfectly placed header. Tony Lochead launched a searching ball to the far post and Smeltz managed to climb above his defender with his best Tim Cahill impression.

It worked.

The ball evaded Theo and dropped back down just under the bar and send the crowd into raptures. That was how it ended, 2-2,  giving the new club a much-needed boost.

The Phoenix would go on the claim the wooden spoon in their inaugural year but results soon improved. Wellington made the finals in the three consecutive seasons from 2009-10 onwards, going within a whisker of a grand final appearance that same year. More recently there have been doubts over their future with the FFA refusing to guarantee the club a license beyond 2020.

But if history has taught us anything, Gallop and co. would be wise to check their back post.

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Third year Sports Media student at the University of Canberra. Interests include sports history and stats...you know, all the fun stuff.