Two goals in the last six minutes by Brisbane Roar substitute James Meyer sent the Wellington Phoenix crashing to a 2-0 loss at Robina’s Skilled Park on Wednesday night.
The win enabled Brisbane to equal the Australian record of 22 matches unbeaten but it was a cruel blow to a Phoenix side that had looked comfortable in holding the table-topping Roar scoreless for 84 minutes.
For most of the game the Phoenix, who have struggled away from home all season, were the equal of Brisbane but the footballing gods turned against them in those last haunting minutes.
Firstly referee Ryan Shepherd changed his mind after awarding a throw in to Wellington and, on the advice of an assistant, gave a free kick against Phoenix substitute Nicky Ward.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the ball was moved to Meyer and his speculative shot was deflected past a helpless Danny Vukovic by Andrew Durante to put Roar ahead.
With the Phoenix pushing forward looking for an equaliser Brisbane caught them on the break five minutes later with Meyer scoring from close range after Thomas Broich had hit the crossbar.
The poor standard of the Skilled Park pitch wasn’t conducive to flowing football but both teams acquitted themselves well in the circumstances.
Clear cut chances were scarce but the Phoenix carved out as many as their highly-rated opponents, at one point in the first half having had five attempts on goal to Roar’s one.
Neither goalkeeper was tested often but Dylan Macallister twice tested Roar’s Michael Theoklitos in the opening 45 minutes, and after the break Manny Muscat forced a fine save from Theoklitos with a 25-metre piledriver.
Vukovic made one fine save in the 40th minute when he clawed away a close range effort from Ivan Franjic, but otherwise was untroubled behind a solid Phoenix defence.
Coach Ricki Herbert was left shaking his head and wondering how his team would be heading home with nothing to show for their efforts.
“We deserved something from the match, that’s for sure,” Herbert said.
“Going into those last few minutes the worst case scenario was a draw and then to concede an own goal like that was really cruel, but then we’ve had a few of those moments this season haven’t we?
“Danny said Meyer’s shot was going wide till it got the deflection.
“It is always disappointing to lose but I think we can hold our heads up the way we played. We kept our composure and shape and Brisbane couldn’t find a way through”