Phoenix last on ladder after loss to Brisbane

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 21:09 17/02/2013

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The pressure on coach Ricki Herbert continues to mount as the Wellington Phoenix sunk back to the bottom of the A-League ladder in Brisbane.

The well-rested Phoenix were unable to take advantage of a tired Roar side smarting from their Asian Champions League exit in Thailand on Thursday.

Not surprisingly the Phoenix looked the more lively side for much of the night but two defensive errors cost them badly in a 2-0 loss at Suncorp Stadium.

Steven Lustica scored his first A-League goal in the 33rd minute.

Brisbane captain Thomas Broich had picked out the run of Shane Stefanutto as Tyler Boyd failed to respond to Vince Lia's plea to track the left back.

Stefanutto crossed to an unmarked Lustica who duly obliged in beating recalled Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss.

Dani Sanchez - brought on early for an injured Isaka Cernak (hip flexor) - was the villain shortly after halftime.

Luke Brattan dispossessed the sloppy Spaniard in a dangerous position and fed Besart Berisha who struck expertly past Moss.

Early on, Corey Gameiro thought he had made a dream Phoenix debut when he bundled the ball into the back of the net.

But the Fulham loan player's goal was correctly disallowed for his infringement on Jade North and the setback obviously affected the visitors who are in a fragile state of mind.

The Phoenix did create chances but Louis Fenton's piledriver was superbly saved by Michael Theo, Stein Huysegems' close-range shot was blocked by North and Boyd nodded a weak header wide of the goal.

These are dark days for Herbert's side, who were widely expected to contend for the title this season.

Their next two games are at Westpac Stadium - against Adelaide and Newcastle - before hosting Melbourne Heart in Dunedin.

Herbert's job will go on the line in a post-season review yet bizarrely Phoenix chairman Rob Morrison has said the league's longest-serving coach will definitely remain at the club in some capacity.

Herbert was forced into a reshuffle before the game as right back Leo Bertos pulled up sore after training yesterday.

Bertos was deemed fit enough to take his place on the bench with Lia shifted into the backline and Boyd promoted to the starting lineup.

The win lifted Brisbane into seventh place.

Elsewhere, Shane Smeltz scored the winner as Perth Glory upset leaders Central Coast 2-1 in new coach Alistair Edwards' first game in charge.

Western Sydney Wanderers' remarkable debut season continued with a 2-1 away win over Melbourne Victory.

The second-placed Wanderers are now just one point behind the Mariners.

Sydney FC's turnaround continued with a 2-1 win over Adelaide and Newcastle beat the Heart 2-0.

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- Fairfax Media

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