Two former players came back to haunt the Wellington Phoenix when they were beaten 1-0 by Perth Glory in Western Australia on Sunday.
Striker Shane Smeltz scored the only goal of the game in the first half, while goalkeeper Danny Vukovic, who made such an impression in Wellington last season, made two fingertip saves to deny the Phoenix the point they at least deserved.
To complete a disappointing night the Phoenix had Manny Muscat sent off in injury time for a second yellow card.
The Phoenix have at times in the past been criticised for a perceived lack of attacking intent during away games but, as was the case in their first round game at Gold Coast, that charge can no longer be levelled at them.
Vukovic was by far the busier of the two goalkeepers with Tony Warner, who kept his place despite Mark Paston returning from injury, being untested apart from a series of crosses.
Warner had no chance with Smeltz-s goal, the master predator getting goal side of his marker to sweep the ball into the net following a Jacob Burns free kick out on the right flank.
The Phoenix could have considered themselves unlucky to go in at halftime a goal down with Chris Greenacre, Dani Sanchez and Daniel all going agonisingly close to scoring after some fine attacking moves.
The Phoenix dominated the second half for long periods, pushing forward at every opportunity, and it took a brilliant save by Vukovic to turn a Ben Sigmund header on to the crossbar late in the game.
Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert described his team-s performance as the best they had ever produced in Perth and was bitterly disappointed they were going home with nothing to show for their efforts.
“We deserved something for sure,” Herbert said. “I was very proud of our performance.
“Injuries and suspension has made things difficult for us, but the way the players have reacted has been outstanding.”