MATCH REPORT – Last-Gasp Disappointment for Phoenix


A silent dressing room told the story after the Phoenix were consigned to a 2-1 loss to Brisbane Roar through a 92d minute goal by Ivan Franjic at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.

The players had given their all for head coach Ernie Merrick only to end up with nothing to show for their efforts thanks to that last gasp goal.

Enter stand-in captain Ben Sigmund telling them they should be proud of themselves for the way they performed in the season opener, a message reiterated by Merrick before he sent them on their way.

Merrick pointed out that they had taken on a strong Roar outfit with a squad in which eight of the 16 were making their Phoenix debuts and missing key players away on international duty.

He also reminded them that for the first 20 minutes Roar had struggled to get out of their own half such was the wealth of possession the Phoenix enjoyed thanks to following the Merrick mantra of pass and move.

Merrick was just as gutted as his players by Roar-s late winner, but far from disheartened.

“It has been a difficult week preparing without some key players and just when I thought nothing else could go wrong (stand-in goalkeeper) Jacob Spoonley went down with a virus on Friday night and couldn-t train on Saturday,” he said.

“That he did such a great job today speaks volumes for his character.”

Little did Merrick know that while making those comments to the media his goalkeeper was in the toilet throwing up after playing the final 20 minutes with severe stomach cramps.

The Phoenix took the game to the visitors from the first whistle, much to the delight of their 8239 fans.

It was no more than they deserved when Stein Huysegems gave them a 22nd minute lead with a clinical finish when put in by a Michael Boxall header.

There were chances for the Phoenix to add to that lead but they went in at the break only 1-0 up and a minute into the second spell they were hauled back on level terms with the ever-dangerous Besart Berisha slotting in from a cut-back.

Both teams had chances in the second spell but it wasn-t till two minutes into added time that Franjic found the winner.

“It was disappointing because I felt we had done enough to earn a point,” Merrick said.

“The boys, especially the young ones, are still learning how to grind out a result because that is what we should have done today.

“The possession we had in the first half showed we are on the right track but our defending has to get better.

“While they scored in the first and last minutes of the second half I believe we gave as good as we got inbetween.

“At the end we were running out of legs, the youngsters in particular, but I saw today as an important descriptor of where we are at and where we are going.”

Wellington Phoenix: Jacob Spoonley, Luke Adams (Albert Riera 55m), Michael Boxall, Ben Sigmund, Reece Caira, Vince Lia, Manny Muscat, Carlos Hernandez, Kenny Cunningham (Paul Ifill 55m), Jason Hicks, Stein Huysegems (Tyler Boyd 84m).