The Wellington Phoenix's faint finals hopes remain alive but they will reflect on yesterday's draw with Adelaide United as an opportunity missed.
With Adelaide reduced to 10 men following the 68th minute dismissal of Jon McKain, the Phoenix proceeded to pepper goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic.
But while Corey Gameiro opened his A-League account with an 80th minute equaliser, the last placed Phoenix desperately needed three points rather than one in front of just 4892 fans at Westpac Stadium.
"Especially second half, I thought real good shades of the old Phoenix really," coach Ricki Herbert said.
"Totally comprehensive, well in control, only team going to win the game."
But Adelaide were the better side in the first half as Tomi Juric and Marcelo Carrusca both bulged the net with sweet, left-footed strikes.
The Phoenix remained in the contest thanks to Galekovic, who dithered on the ball and Gameiro pounced to set up Jeremy Brockie's 12th goal of the season.
At 2-1 up, Adelaide sat back too early and the Phoenix emerged from halftime with the urgency that has been sadly lacking of late.
McKain's sending off gave them extra freedom to push forward but the Phoenix's crossing and finishing remain sub-par.
"Yeah it did [let us down], you get that volume, you need to be better at the top part of the pitch," Herbert said.
"But I think we've walked off the pitch the last few weeks being more disappointed that we haven't played well at all. I honestly can't say that today, I thought we were right up for it. Irrespective of the sending off, I thought we really started the second half brightly and looked like a side that wanted to get something out of a football match."
Adelaide coach Michael Valkanis said referee Tim McGilchrist's decision to send McKain off appeared "50-50" at first glance.
The former Phoenix player collected yellow cards for his challenges on Andrew Durante in the first half and Vince Lia in the second.
"I'd have to see it again," said Valkanis, who said his side deserved a point.
"To me at the time it looked like it was a 50-50 and it was a big clash but I'll have to have a look at it."
Brockie's strike puts him equal second in the golden boot race with Brisbane's Besart Berisha, and behind only Central Coast's Daniel McBreen who has 15.
But the goal of the game came from Carrusca.
The Argentine picked the ball up from Cassio on the counter attack and let rip with a screamer from outside the box to give Glen Moss no chance.
The Phoenix host Newcastle Jets on Wednesday at Westpac Stadium and then meet Melbourne Heart in Dunedin on Sunday.
Herbert is to assess his players' fitness today but midfielder Isaka Cernak, who missed yesterday's game with a hip flexor injury, is a chance to return.
Elsewhere, All White Michael McGlinchey scored a hat-trick as leaders Central Coast demolished Melbourne Victory 6-2, second-placed Western Sydney kept pace by beating Perth Glory 1-0 and Newcastle and Brisbane Roar drew 0-0.
- The Dominion Post
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