Maclaren double in City ALM win over Nix

Melbourne City has prevailed in a ding-dong battle against Wellington Phoenix, winning 3-1 to go four points clear at the top of the A-League Men ladder.

City did it the hard way at Wellington's Sky Stadium, falling behind for the first time this season and facing 20 shots from Ufuk Talay's all-out attacking side.

A pair of Socceroos came to the rescue, with Mathew Leckie equalising and Jamie Maclaren scoring a second-half double as City overcame David Ball's inventive backheeled opener.

However, the final scoreline could have been anything, with Nix striker Oscar Zawada missing a raft of chances, including from a heart-in-the-mouth slip from Thomas Glover.

"We created enough chances to win two games today," Talay said, frustrated at fulltime.

Monday's match pitted two of the league's best entertainers, the fixture averaging four goals a game over the past four years.

Ball opened the scoring on 16 minutes, running past Lucas Mauragis' cross but still managing to backheel it past Glover.

Whether a tribute or just circumstance, Leckie attempted an exact same backheel-style effort at the other end a minute later, hitting the base of the post.

Another minute later, he found a more conventional way to goal, heading Marco Tilio's cross past Oli Sail.

Chances continued at both ends, with Zawada heading wide from another Mauragis cross and then failing to score with an empty net in front of him.

When Glover stumbled as he attempted to clear, the Pole stole the ball from him and had a brief clear sight of goal, only to scuff his effort and allow the goalkeeper to recover.

Zawada was at the heart of everything, chipping the ball into the back of the net from Bozhidar Kraev's smart through-ball only to be judged offside.

The attacking continued after the break, when Tilio's trickery fooled Kraev into a foul in the box that Maclaren scored.

The 51st minute penalty lengthens Maclaren's streak: the Socceroo has scored in every game this season, including six penalties, to lead the golden boot race with 12.

Wellington surged forward in search of a winner, with Zawada heading straight at Glover once more and substitute Kosta Barbarouses hitting the bar after a tearaway run.

Zawada spurned another golden chance to equalise in injury time, but chose to turn rather than shoot when a loose ball in the box fell his way.

With Nix fully committed to an equaliser Maclaren put the game to bed, slotting Andrew Nabbout's centring ball in the 97th minute.

His effort was the 33rd shot on goal of a madcap match.

"It was a very hard game ... it was all hands on the pump towards the end," City coach Rado Vidosic said.

"Our backline was fantastic and we had to be desperate at some moments. All credit to our defenders."

The occasion showed City's steel but also Wellington's achilles heel, with a streak against A-League opposition of 15 games without a clean sheet.

The Nix are the league's second-highest scorers but are stuck in ninth as a result of their strong emphasis on attack, though Talay said he wouldn't change his gameplan in search of dire wins.

"You've got to score goals to win games," he said.

"We could defend for 90 minutes and walk away with a point but the reality is you need to score one more goal than the opponent to win a game. So we'll still play attacking football."