Soccer: Roar stun Phoenix with late winner

By Daniel Richardson

Kenny Cunningham of the Phoenix is tackled by Thomas Brioch of the Roar during the round one A-League match between Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar. Photo / Getty Images.
Kenny Cunningham of the Phoenix is tackled by Thomas Brioch of the Roar during the round one A-League match between Wellington Phoenix and Brisbane Roar. Photo / Getty Images.

Louis Fenton can't recover from his shoulder injury fast enough for Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick.

Fenton has been hand-picked to be the Phoenix's long-term solution at right back - a position which has proved challenging to fill for the franchise in recent years and was a weak spot again for them yesterday as they went down 2-1 to the Brisbane Roar in Wellington.

Merrick's side were always going to be up against it in the season-opener, given they were robbed of four regular players with Jeremy Brockie, Glen Moss, Leo Bertos and skipper Andrew Durante all away on All Whites duty.

The Phoenix fielded a collection of rookies and players out of position against Brisbane and the lack of cohesion eventually told as Ivan Franjic nabbed a winner in stoppage time for the Roar, much to the disgust of the home side, who were probably good for a point for the draw.

New Zealand under-20s captain Luke Adams was one of the Phoenix's debutants and he was shunted out to the right side of defence, but it was a tough start for the youngster, who is normally more at home in the middle of the backline.

He struggled with his positioning and was pulled in the 55th minute and replaced by Spaniard Albert Riera, who was a surprise choice to play there by Merrick given Manny Muscat's ability to fill the role.

Merrick argued after the game that he didn't want to break up his midfield triumvirate of Muscat, Carlos Hernandez and Vince Lia so he left Muscat in his holding midfield role.

Next weekend, the Phoenix travel to Western Sydney to meet the Wanderers, and picking a right back will be one of Merrick's major sticking points in the build-up.

The Scotsman said Fenton was a realistic prospect to be fit for the home-away-from-home outing against Newcastle in Napier on Labour weekend, meaning he would have to find a stop-gap option for next week.

Muscat is the club's most proven right back but he prefers to play in the midfield and looked solid there yesterday.

The return of Durante to central defence could allow Michael Boxall to shift out to the flank as he was solid against the Roar.

"I personally am going to operate on Louis Fenton to make sure his dislocated shoulder is perfect," Merrick joked after the game.

Against Brisbane, the Phoenix went ahead midway through the first half when former Belgian international Stein Huysegems finished from close range as Wellington took a 1-0 lead to the break.

Brisbane began the second spell in perfect fashion, though, when a Roar attack down the Phoenix's right flank saw Besart Berisha score inside the opening minute as poor marking left the Albanian open at the top of the box.

During the middle stages of the final 45 minutes, both sides had their chances to find a winner and the visitors left it as late as possible when Franjic hammered home a loose ball that had rattled off the post from a Thomas Broich shot.

Brisbane's attack that led to their final goal came via the Phoenix's right side of the paddock.

Brisbane Roar 2 (Besart Berisha 46, Ivan Franjic 90+1)
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Stein Huysegems 21) Halftime: 0-1

- APNZ

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