Phoenix still without a win after loss to Brisbane

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 23:38 14/12/2013

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Who would be a football coach?

The misery continues for Ernie Merrick and the winless Wellington Phoenix, who again played plenty of good football, yet fell to a 2-1 loss against A-League leaders Brisbane at Westpac Stadium tonight.

The action-packed game was a repeat of the round-one encounter at the same venue, with the same scoreline, and Ivan Franjic again scoring the winner for the Roar.

It was incredibly cruel for the Phoenix, who displayed plenty of commitment and skill yet have only themselves to blame for the result.

The Phoenix have four draws and five losses to their name, and will drop to last on the ladder if Melbourne Heart pick up a point against Sydney FC tonight.

Merrick – a two-time A-League winner with Melbourne Victory – was at a loss to explain the inability to translate performance into points.

"I've never come across this," Merrick said.

"I've never come across a team which can play such good football ... but not score goals. I realise today how good the team are, I've got a very good team. I thought we outplayed the team that sits top of the league. It's a good team but we've got to score goals."

The hosts dominated the opening half an hour, pressuring the slick-passing Roar and creating several good chances.

Stein Huysegems was everywhere but couldn't put the ball in the back of the net, while Jeremy Brockie had a Minties moment in the 26th minute.

The striker inexplicably shot over from point blank range, with the goal at his mercy after Huysegems had forced a save from Michael Theo.

The tide swung towards the Roar after that, and Albanian ace Besart Berisha missed two chances he would usually bury.

But the crowd of 6374 was stunned into silence as Brisbane captain Matt Smith snuck in behind a slipping Ben Sigmund at the far post to bundle in a goal from what appeared an innocuous Thomas Broich free kick.

The Phoenix finally received a little luck after the break as Kenny Cunningham won a penalty which was converted by Carlos Hernandez for his first Phoenix goal.

The pacy Cunningham got in behind Jack Hingert who interfered with the Costa Rican's progress.

Cunningham made the most of the contact with an extravagant dive but Shaun Evans pointed to the spot and Hernandez struck with surety.

Hingert then won a penalty of his own when he was fouled by Albert Riera.

But Berisha's unhappy day continued as Glen Moss dived to his right to block his spot kick and Matt McKay sprayed the rebound wide.

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You felt that may inspire the Phoenix but Brisbane are an experienced side who have mastered the art of winning.

As he did in round one, right winger Franjic delivered the decisive blow, in the 74th minute, cutting inside Manny Muscat and curling a beautiful left-footed strike into the top left corner.

Despite yet another setback, Merrick remains resolute in his belief that the Phoenix are good enough to make the top-six finals.

"I still think there's enough time to make the finals but we've got to start scoring goals. As silly as it sounds, today was probably our best, overall, 90 minute performance. I think they played wonderful football and that's what I'll tell them. The mood at training is fantastic but they're devastated losing that game."

Brisbane Roar 2 (Matt Smith, Ivan Franjic) Wellington Phoenix 1 (Carlos Hernandez). HT: 1-0.

- Fairfax Media

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