That will be that for beaten Phoenix
Once-promising season hopes dashedSAM WORTHINGTON
Sadly, the Wellington Phoenix's once promising season is ending with a whimper.
Yesterday's 1-0 loss to Adelaide United almost certainly killed off the club's already faint A-League finals hopes and, with two games to play, they might be doing well to hold on to their eighth place position.
They weren't bad yesterday, just down in confidence and lacking attacking inspiration as a horror run of injuries continues to take its toll.
A cheeky chipped penalty from Marcelo Carrusca in the 58th minute was the difference between the sides.
Phoenix captain Andrew Durante had brought down Adelaide left back Tarek Elrich in the box and referee Peter Green had no option but to point to the spot.
"I think Andrew thought he timed it well, it's not like Andrew," Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick said. "A good captain, good leader but the player had actually taken an extra touch and lost possession of the ball so he didn't actually need to tackle."
The Phoenix had their chances in a largely flat spectacle in front of 6453 at Westpac Stadium.
Stein Huysegems was denied by a fine Eugene Galekovic save on the stroke of halftime after being played through one-on-one; Kenny Cunningham miscued horribly just outside the six-yard box and Michael Boxall blazed a volley over the bar in the 81st minute.
Merrick's selections and substitutions also raised eyebrows.
Out-of-sorts striker Jeremy Brockie played the full 90 minutes, while pacy duo Roy Krishna and Tyler Boyd were dropped from the side thumped 5-0 by the Newcastle Jets.
Merrick stacked his midfield with the defensively minded Manny Muscat, Vince Lia and Matthew Ridenton joining Cunningham in the engine room.
They were able to disrupt Adelaide's usually slick passing game but there was little attacking edge up front, while the returning Carlos Hernandez (calf) was unable to make an impact off the bench.
"They [Krishna and Boyd] hardly touched the ball last week," Merrick said.
"I wanted an experienced lineup so I put in experienced players up front. I didn't think against Newcastle they worked hard enough to justify a place."
Merrick might have inadvertently walked under a ladder.
Already without six injured players, Ben Sigmund (thigh) and Vince Lia (groin) are now in doubt for Sunday's visit to Sydney FC while Manny Muscat is out again with suspension.
With the season all but over you would think it was time to give Alex Rufer a run but Merrick said the teenage midfielder would have to impress in training.
"We want to beat Sydney away from home, we're not just going to throw it away. For Alex Rufer it's about earning a spot."
Elsewhere, runaway minor premiers Brisbane Roar extended their competition lead to 12 points with a come-from-behind 2-1 win over Melbourne Heart.
Defending champions Central Coast Mariners improved to second as Bernie Ibini scored a 90th minute winner against Western Sydney Wanderers, who dropped back to third.
And James Troisi cancelled out Joel Chianese's goal as Melbourne Victory drew 1-1 with Sydney. Fairfax NZ
- Fairfax Media
How will the Phoenix go in 2013-14?Related story: Wellington Phoenix off-season scorecard