Wellington Phoenix's faint A-League finals hopes have been snuffed out after falling to a 1-0 defeat to Adelaide United at Westpac Stadium today.
With just two games to go Ernie Merrick's men are five points behind sixth-placed Sydney FC, while seventh-placed Newcastle Jets can move into a playoff position by beating Perth Glory this evening.
Marcelo Carrusca scored Adelaide's winner from the penalty spot in the 58th minute.
The Argentine sent goalkeeper Glen Moss the wrong way with a cheeky left-footed chip after Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante had brought down Adelaide left back Tarek Elrich in the box.
There were no complaints with referee Peter Green's decision.
It was a tame way for the Phoenix's finals hopes to end in front of 6453 faithful supporters.
It had been a season that had promised so much but a steady stream of season-ending injuries - Louis Fenton, Paul Ifill, Albert Riera, Reece Caira and Josh Brindell-South - derailed Merrick's debut campaign.
Merrick packed the midfield against Adelaide, with Manny Muscat, Vince Lia and Matthew Ridenton stopping the Reds' passing game, but there was no attacking edge up front.
The lack of action was in stark contrast to the Warriors' rollicking NRL win on the same ground yesterday, with Kenny Cunningham looking the most likely to inflict some damage.
Stein Huysegems had the home side's best chance when he was played through on goal by Muscat just before halftime.
It would have been the perfect time to score but the off-contract Belgian striker was denied by a fine save by from Adelaide captain Eugene Galekovic.
Substitutes Carlos Hernandez, Roy Krishna and Tyler Boyd were all thrown on and right back Michael Boxall had a good chance in the 81st minute but blasted his volley over the bar.
The Phoenix had been given a leg-up before the match with three of Adelaide's stars - Jon McKain, Jeronimo Neumann and Sergio Cirio - all ruled out injured.
But while Josep Gombau's side were not at their slick best they didn't have to be.
Portugese winger Fabio Ferreira caused left back Shaun Timmins problems on the break but, after Carrusca's goal, there was no need to push too many numbers forward.
The Phoenix must dust themselves off and come up with some internal motivation ahead of Saturday's visit to Sydney.
It would be good to see teenaged midfielder Alex Rufer given an opportunity while pacy strikers Krishna and Boyd are the future and deserve another chance in the starting lineup.
AT A GLANCE
Adelaide United 1 (Marcelo Carrusca) Wellington Phoenix 0 HT: 0-0. Crowd: 6453.
- Fairfax Media
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