Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert admits his side were a distant second-best in their 3-2 A-League loss to the Melbourne Victory on Monday night.
Herbert said any other outcome would have been "unfair" after the Phoenix lost a second straight away game and slipped from fifth to eighth place through five rounds.
The visitors struggled for possession and paid the price when former Phoenix attacking midfielder Marco Rojas celebrated his 21st birthday with two goals.
Argentine Marco Flores bagged another for the Victory before Phoenix striker Jeremy Brockie conjured two late goals.
Following a 12th successive A-League visit to Melbourne without a win, Herbert agreed with suggestions the scoreline flattered his team.
"Absolutely. We weren't good enough tonight, and let's pay credit to Melbourne. I thought they were very good, and we were very disappointing," he said.
"Melbourne were a little bit vulnerable and giving the ball away, and we gave ourselves a real shot at the end. But it would have been unfair."
Victory playmakers Rojas and Brazilian Gui Finkler were given ample space in the middle of the park and Herbert believed his side looked more solid when midfielders Tyler Boyd and Benjamin Totori replaced striker Stein Huysegems and Paul Ifill with half an hour remaining.
"When we put three in midfield we started to compete," he said.
"I think we did score a couple of very good goals, and showed there's probably no team in the league that can dominate for long periods if you're prepared to have a go."
Another positive was Brockie's long-range goals which would take "real weight off" his shoulders following a goal-less start to the campaign.
The Phoenix will chase just their first win since the season-opening defeat of Sydney FC when they host the Central Coast Mariners on Sunday.
The Mariners are coming off a record 7-2 hammering of Sydney on Saturday.
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