Back-to-back losses for Phoenix ahead of finals

07:55, Mar 25 2012
Ben Halloran
Ben Halloran (L) of United and Emmanuel Muscat of Phoenix contest the ball during their round one A-League match.
Phoenix
Joshua Brillante of United controls the ball during their round one A-League match against the Wellington Phoenix.
Phoenix
Tim Brown of Phoenix heads the ball during their round one A-League match against Gold Coast United.
Phoenix
Matt Gillett gives the Phoenix's Nick Ward a red card against the Newcastle Jets.
Phoenix
Phoenix's Nick Ward walks off after receiving a red card against the Newcastle Jets.
Phoenix
Daniel celebrates Phoenix's second goal against the Newcastle Jets.
Phoenix
Former Phoenix owner Terry Serepisos at the match against the Newcastle Jets at Westpac Stadium.
Phoenix
Phoenix's Leo Bertos and Jets player Sung-Hwan Byun fight for the ball.
Phoenix
Andrezinho of Perth unsuccessfully attempts to keep the ball in play with Manny Muscat of Wellington looking on.
Phoenix
Chris Greenacre of Wellington tackles Jacob Burns of Perth during their round three A-League match.
Phoenix
Daniel Vukovic goalkeeper for Perth makes a save against the Phoenix.
Phoenix
Referee Ben Williams shows a red card to Phoenix's Manny Muscat against the Perth Glory.
Phoenix
Wellington Phoenix' Tony Warner dives for the penalty shoot however is unable to stop the ball from going into the back of the net against the Melbourne Victory. CHRIS
Phoenix
Referee Peter Green stands between Melbourne Victory's Ante Covic and Wellington Phoenix's Daniel Cortes.
Phoenix
Melbourne Victory's Harry Kewell celebrates with Carlos Hernandez after scoring from the penalty spot against the Phoenix.
Phoenix
Melbourne Victory's Marco Rojas during their A-League match against the Wellington Phoenix.
Phoenix
Wellington Phoenix's Tim Brown in action against the Central Coast Mariners at Westpac Stadium.
Phoenix
Wellington Phoenix's Chris Greenacre celebrates his goal with Daniel Cortes against the Central Coast Mariners at Westpac Stadium.
Phoenix
Wellington Phoenix's Daniel Cortes in action against the Central Coast Mariners at Westpac Stadium.
Phoenix
Wellington Phoenix's Dani Sanchez has a shot at goal against the Central Coast Mariners at Westpac Stadium.
Phoenix
Anthony Warner of the Phoenix dives as he is beaten by a strike from Besart Berisha of the Roar.
Phoenix
Michael Theoklitos of the Roar saves a goal against the Wellington Phoenix.
Phoenix
Chris Greenacre of the Phoenix and Matthew Jurman of the Roar challenge for the ball.
Phoenix
Thomas Broich of the Roar in action against the Wellington Phoenix at Suncorp Stadium.
Phoenix
Tim Brown of the Phoenix celebrates with team mates after scoring a goal against the Brisbane Roar and the Wellington Phoenix at Suncorp Stadium.
Phoenix
Tim Brown of the Phoenix is held back by Spase Dilevski of Adelaide United at Eden Park.
Phoenix
Bruce Djite of Adelaide United and Tim Brown of the Phoenix fight for possession.
Phoenix
Phoenix's Anthony Warner reacts to the Adelaide side scoring the only goal of the first half at Eden Park.
Phoenix
Sydney's Bruno Cazarine yells at ref Ryan Shephead at the final whistle during their match against the Phoenix.
Phoenix
Sydney's Terry McFlynn reacts to Phoenix's Paul Ifill.
Phoenix
Phoenix's Tim Brown takes a flying kick unsuccessfully past Sydney's goalkeeper Liam Reddy.
Phoenix
Phoenix's Paul Ifill in action against Sydney FC.
Phoenix
Phoenix's Paul Ifill celebrates his goal against Sydney FC.
Phoenix
Phoenix's Mirjan Pavlovic and Sydney's Scott Jamieson battle for the ball.
Paul Ifill and Michael Marrone
Wellington Phoenix midfielder Paul Ifill attempts to poke the ball away from the Melbourne Heart's Michael Marrone.
Phoenix gallery
Ben Sigmund of the Phoenix and Jason Hoffman of the Heart contest the ball.
Phoenix gallery
Heart players celebrate the goal of Mate Dugandzic during their round nine match against the Wellington Phoenix.
Phoenix gallery
Vince Lia of the Phoenix controls the ball during their round nine match against the Wellington Phoenix.
Phoenix gallery
Mirjan Pavlovic of the Phoenix controls the ball during their round nine match against the Wellington Phoenix.
Manny Muscat
Wellington defender Manny Muscat is upended by Perth's Andrezinho.
Ben Sigmund
An ecstatic Ben Sigmund reacts after his 85th minute header resulted in the game's only goal.
Ben Sigmund
Phoenix captain Andrew Durante celebrates the Phoenix's 2-0 win over the Roar.
Leo Bertos
Perth's Trent McClenahan runs into the back of Phoenix midfielder Leo Bertos.
Mirjan Pavlovic
Referee Ryan Shepheard shows Mirjan Pavlovic a red card late in the match.
Ben Sigmund
Paul Ifill of the Phoenix makes a break during against the Brisbane Roar at Forsyth Barr Stadium.
Ben Sigmund
Phoenix players Ben Sigmund, Andrew Durante and Tim Brown acknowledge the crowd after the 2-0 win over the Roar.
Ben Sigmund
Phoenix fans cheer the goal by Paul Ifill in the first half.
Ben Sigmund
Paul Ifill is congratulated by Nick Ward after scoring the first goal of the game.
Ben Sigmund
Chris Greenacre of the Phoenix tangles with the Roar's Matthew Jurman.
Alex Smith
The Phoenix's Alex Smith is chased down by Melbourne's Leigh Broxham.
Carlos Hernandez and Ben Sigmund
Ben Sigmund (right) is held off by Melbourne Victory midfielder Carlos Hernandez.
Harry Kewell and Ben Sigmund
Victory captain Harry Kewell offers Wellington defender Ben Sigmund a helping hand.
Andrew Durante
Phoenix captain Andrew Durante makes a sliding challenge on Danny Allsopp.
Wellington's Tim Brown competes in the air with Nigel Boogaard of Adelaide.
Wellington's Tim Brown competes in the air with Nigel Boogaard of Adelaide.
Tim Brown of the Phoenix competes with Zenon Caravella of Adelaide.
Tim Brown of the Phoenix competes with Zenon Caravella of Adelaide.
Phoenix vs Adelaide
Goal Keeper Eugene Galekovic of Adelaide keeps his eyes on the ball.
Phoenix Gallery
Wellington Phoenix's Dani Sanchez battles Sydney's Jamie Coyne.
Phoenix Gallery
Wellington Phoenix goal keeper Tony Warner fails to stop a penalty taken by Sydney's Brett Emerton
Phoenix Gallery
Wellington Phoenix's Leo Bertos shoots past Sydney's Shannon Cole.
Phoenix Gallery
Wellington Phoenix's Vince Lia during the Phoenix v Sydney.
Phoenix Gallery
Wellington Phoenix's Leo Bertos and Wellington Phoenix's Tim Brown and Perth's Liam Miller.
Phoenix Gallery
Wellington Phoenix's Dani Sanchez during the game vs Perth Glory.
Phoenix Gallery
Wellington Phoenix's Tim Brown and Perth's Liam Miller.
Phoenix Gallery
Wellington Phoenix's captain Andrew Durante and Tony Lochhead.
Phoenix Gallery
Tony Lochhead of the Phoenix attempts to pass Ben Halloran of Gold Coast United.
Phoenix Gallery
Paul Ifill of the Phoenix throws the ball back into play against Gold Coast United.
Phoenix Gallery
Jerrad Tyson of United dives on the ball against the Wellington Phoenix at Skilled Park.
Phoenix Gallery
Tarek Elrich of the Jets competes for the ball with Paul Ifill of the Phoenix during their round 16 A-League match.
Phoenix Gallery
Michael Bridges of the Jets runs away from Alexander Smith of the Phoenix during their round 16 A-League match.
Phoenix Gallery
A young Jets fan waves a flag before their round 16 A-League match against the Wellington Phoenix at Ausgrid Stadium.
Phoenix Gallery
Ben Sigmund of Wellington in action against Adelaide United.
Phoenix Gallery
Serginho van Dijk (L) of Adelaide competes with Andrew Durante of Wellington.
Phoenix Gallery
Yevgen Levchenko (L) of Adelaide picks up Leo Bertos of Wellington.
Phoenix Gallery
Emmanuel Muscat (L) of Wellington competes with Iain Ramsey (R) of Adelaide.
Phoenix Gallery
Tim Brown (L) of Wellington is congratulated by team mate Daniel Sanchez after Brown scored a goal against Adelaide United.
Phoenix Gallery
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert reacts to a decision against his team during their match against the Brisbane Roar at Westpac Stadium.
Phoenix Gallery
Phoenix's Ben Sigmund gets injured during their match against the Brisbane Roar at Westpac Stadium.
Phoenix Gallery
Brisbane Roar's Besart Berisha celebrates scoring during their match against the Phoenix at Westpac Stadium.
Phoenix Gallery
Phoenix's Leo Bertos and Brisbane Roar's Shane Stefanutto go up for the ball.
Phoenix Gallery
Referee Jarred Gillett yellow-cards Vince Lia during of the Phoenix in their match against the the Brisbane Roar.
Central Coast Mariners v Phoenix, Gosford, Feb 18
Joshua Rose of the Mariners dribbles between Phoenix pair Dani Sanchez (L) and Vince Lia (R).
Central Coast Mariners v Phoenix, Gosford, Feb 18
Mariners players celebrate their second goal against the Phoenix by Patrick Zwaanswijk.
Central Coast Mariners v Phoenix, Gosford, Feb 18
Vince Lia of the Phoenix claims possession in front of Tomas Rogic of the Mariners.
Central Coast Mariners v Phoenix, Gosford, Feb 18
Vince Lia wins possession from a sprawling Joshua Rose during the Wellington Phoenix's 2-0 loss to the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford.
Phoenix
Alexander Smith of Sydney competes for the ball against Manny Muscat of Wellington.
Phoenix
Joel Chianese of Sydney is given a yellow card for diving by referee Peter Green.
Phoenix
Michael Beauchamp of Sydney looks dejected after missing a shot on goal against the Phoenix.
Phoenix
Paul Ifill of Wellington celebrates after scoring his team's first goal against Sydney FC.
Phoenix
Joel Chianese of Sydney tackles Ben Sigmund of Wellington.
Phoenix
Wellington Phoenix's Leo Bertos shoots at goal against Gold Coast United.
Phoenix
Wellington Phoenix's Paul Ifill misses a chance against Gold Coast United.
Phoenix
Wellington Phoenix's Chris Greenacre heads the ball in a free kick against Gold Coast United.
Phoenix
Wellington Phoenix's Tim Brown and Gold Coast United's Zac Anderson in action.
Dani Sanchez
Dani Sanchez takes a left foot shot at goal against Gold Coast United.
Andrew Durante
Phoenix captain Andrew Durante lies on the turf after missing a chance at goal.
Mirjan Pavlovic
Phoenix striker Mirjan Pavlovic is tripped up by Gold Coast's Jake Barker-Daishduring.
Andrew Durante, Tim Brown and Paul Ifill
Andrew Durante (left) celebrates just his second A-League goal with team-mates Tim Brown and Paul Ifill (right).
Breakers v Adelaide
Aziz Behich of the Heart kicks the ball past Nicholas Ward of the Phoenix.
Breakers v Adelaide
Paul Ifill of the Phoenix celebrates his goal with teammates against the Melbourne Heart.
Breakers v Adelaide
Eli Babalj of the Heart and Ben Sigmund of the Phoenix scuffle.
Breakers v Adelaide
Heart and Phoenix players are involved in a scuffle.
Wellington Phoenix
Isaka Cernak of the Melbourne Victory celebrates his goal as disconsolate Phoenix players Manny Muscat (centre) and Mark Paston look on.
Wellington Phoenix
A disbelieving Paul Ifill is shown a yellow card by referee Chris Beath during the Phoenix's 3-0 loss to Melbourne Victory.
Wellington Phoenix
Isaka Cernak of the Victory and Tony Lochhead of the Phoenix challenge each other for the ball during the round 24 match between Melbourne Victory and the Wellington Phoenix at AAMI Park.
Wellington Phoenix
Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante is gutted as Melbourne Victory players celebrate a goal.
Phoenix
Phoenix's Nick Ward goes over the top of Mariners' Mustafa Amini to head the ball.
Phoenix
Ben Sigmund headers the ball away from the Mariners' Bernie Ibini.
Phoenix
Phoenix's Tony Lochhead holds back Bernie Ibini of the Mariners.
Phoenix
Phoenix's Tony Lochhead holds back John Sutton of the Mariners.
Phoenix
Phoenix's Alexander Smith and the Mariners' Mustafa Amini go up for the ball.

The Wellington Phoenix will enter the A-League finals with home advantage but lacking momentum after falling 2-1 to minor premiers Central Coast in their regular season finale at Westpac Stadium today.

Goals either side of halftime to strikers John Sutton and Bernie Ibini wrapped up the premiers' plate for the Mariners, while the fourth-placed Phoenix will play Sydney FC in Friday night's elimination final in Wellington.

Back-to-back losses, including a season-worst 3-0 defeat against Melbourne Victory, is obviously not ideal preparation for the club's third consecutive finals campaign.

Alexander Smith
BACK-TO BACK LOSSES: Phoenix's Alexander Smith and Mariners' Mustafa Amini go up for the ball.

Wellington's general work around the field was lively against the excellent Mariners, but they are lacking polish in front of goal and a previously watertight defence has sprung a few leaks.

Leo Bertos gave the Mariners a scare with a wonderful long-range free kick in the 80th minute but it proved nothing more than a consolation.

The Phoenix started positively in perfect conditions in front of a crowd of 9802, while the Mariners - in the middle of a hectic schedule - were initially a little sluggish by their own high standards.

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There were few chances in the opening half hour until some neat interplay led to Paul Ifill and Chris Greenacre forcing back-to-back saves from Mariners goalkeeper Mathew Ryan.

It was then Mark Paston's turn for some action and the Phoenix custodian showed good awareness to snuff out a shot from Ibini after the pacy striker had streaked clear of Ben Sigmund.

The game had suddenly opened right up and Ryan stuck out a foot to deny Greenacre - who had again linked with Ifill - a minute later.

Manny Muscat's header forced Ryan into more work but the Mariners drew first blood with a wonderful team goal on the halftime whistle.

Ibini switched play to Oliver Bozanic on the edge of the box and the little midfielder floated in a cross for big Englishman Sutton, who got in front of Andrew Durante to easily nod a header past Paston.

In a halftime interview Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert promised the fans he would "roll the dice" and keep attacking in the second half but it was the Mariners who instead seized control with a second goal.

All Whites midfielder Michael McGlinchey made a dynamic run through the heart of the Phoenix defence and threaded a ball through for Ibini to coolly poke past Paston in the 52nd minute.

Shane Smeltz's remarkable four-goal haul last night meant the Phoenix had needed to beat the Mariners by three or more goals to leapfrog Perth into third place.

The All Whites striker scored all of Glory's goals in their 4-2 win over Victory to eclipse Archie Thompson as the league's all-time leading goalscorer.

Despite Smeltz making it a near-impossible task for the Phoenix to claim third, and a better crack at two home finals, Herbert fielded a first-choice XI in captain Durante's 100th match for the club.

Ifill (flu) and Vince Lia (groin) both played the full 90 minutes instead of resting up for Friday while in the only change Bertos was promoted to the midfield in place of the unlucky Alex Smith.

Central Coast coach Graham Arnold also named arguably his strongest side despite the players backing up from Wednesday's 1-1 Asian Champions League draw with Grampus Nagoya.

Wellington's fourth place finish equals the 2009-10 team as the best Phoenix regular season performance in the club's five-year existence.

Whatever happens in the finals it is a commendable achievement given they were unfancied in the pre-season after a low-key recruitment drive and the distractions of an ownership change.

Central Coast Mariners 2 (John Sutton, Bernie Ibini)

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Leo Bertos) 

HT: 1-0.

Crowd: 9802

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