Soccer: Phoenix pay penalty as home record falls

Vince Lia of the Phoenix, left, and Sydney's Chris Payne take to the air. Photo / Getty Images
Vince Lia of the Phoenix, left, and Sydney's Chris Payne take to the air. Photo / Getty Images

A-League
Wellington Phoenix 0
Sydney FC 1

Wellington missed out on securing a new A-League record last night - but it was the three points they dropped that would have disappointed them the most.

The Phoenix went into the match with an enviable home record, having not been beaten on their own turf for 14 games. It was a string of results that stretched back 14 months - just one more and they would have broken a record co-incidentally set by Sydney.

That would have been nice, although it might have felt weird to achieve it in Palmerston North. But their position on the table is more important. With nine games of the season remaining, they continue to struggle to get beyond second gear. Things seem to be going against them at just the wrong time.

They have picked up just one point in their last three games, have two players serving lengthy bans for violent conduct (Manny Muscat and Ben Sigmund), another two are one card away from a spell on the naughty step, with a further two out injured (Mark Paston and Chris Greenacre).

The A-league is generous in its allocation of playoff spots, with six of the 10 teams invited to the party.

Wellington are still in the mix in what is a very tight league but they need to make their move. They have lost only five of their 18 games this season, but won only four.

And they rarely looked like beating Sydney last night. The visitors dealt with the blustery conditions better and kept Wellington goalkeeper Reece Crowther busy with a number of good strikes on goal.

In the end it was a penalty which proved the difference.

Jon McKain, making his first start since recovering from a long-term injury and called into action because of Sigmund's suspension, bustled Alex Brosque to the deck in the 15th minute. Steve Corica slammed the spot-kick past Crowther in his 200th Australian league match.

McKain's challenge was clumsy more than anything, but as the last defender he was still lucky to stay on the park.

Wellington had chances. Tim Brown's weak shot was cleared off the line and he also headed over from a handy position. And striker Paul Ifill was lively.

But Sydney deserved to leave Palmerston North with at least a point. They currently sit top of the table - a place Wellington can only dream about.

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