There was more disappointment for the Wellington Phoenix when they were beaten 2-1 by Central Coast Mariners at Westpac Stadium tonight.
After producing two top-class performances that ended in unlucky losses to Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory the Phoenix let their standards slip and paid the price.
The pace and verve that had been present in their previous two games was replaced by a laboured performance that meant they were always going to struggle against a strong, committed Mariners side.
After an even first half, the Phoenix defence lost concentration two minutes into the second spell and that allowed speedy striker Bernie Ibini to strike for the game’s opening goal.
To their credit the Phoenix players kept plugging away and were rewarded when Dani Sanchez released Chris Greenacre with a lovely reverse pass and the striker sped away to beat Mariners keeper Mathew Ryan with a low shot that went in off an upright.
The goal invigorated the Phoenix, but their hopes of a point were dashed when slack defending allowed Matt Simon to net the winner for the Mariners from close range.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert was disappointed with the result and the fact that his team hadn’t played as well as they can.
“I’m not sure we were as good as we have been in recent weeks,” Herbert said.
“We weren’t as productive out wide as we have been and that made it difficult.”
Phoenix captain Andrew Durante said it was a disappointed dressing room and that three straight losses wasn’t the start to the season he had been looking for.
“It isn’t the ideal start, but perhaps next week we’ll be the first team to knock off Brisbane” Durante said.
“We were a bit lethargic and sloppy and they punished us.
“It isn’t easy. We have the thinnest squad in the A-League and it is taking its toll.”
Herbert said things weren’t going to change on that front and that the players and staff just had to keep battling away.
“Maybe in three or four weeks we will have 18 or so available with players coming back from injury.”
There was more bad news on the injury front however with Herbert confirming fullback Jimmy Downey may need a knee operation.”
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Chris Greenacre), Central Coast Mariners 2 (Bernie Ibini, Matt Simon).