Michael Burgess is the football and rugby league writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Phoenix suffer horrible defeat to Mariners

A dejected Glenn Moss of the Wellington Phoenix after Luis Garcia of the Central Coast Mariners scored a goal. Photo / Getty Images
A dejected Glenn Moss of the Wellington Phoenix after Luis Garcia of the Central Coast Mariners scored a goal. Photo / Getty Images

It's almost reaching crisis time at the Wellington Phoenix. The goals have dried up and their winless streak now stretches to eight matches, after a horrible 3-1 defeat to the Central Coast Mariners in Christchurch.

Saturday night's match swung on a three minute spell early in the second half, when a Glen Moss error and a moment of Luis Garcia magic saw the Phoenix net broached twice.

Mitchell Austin added a third in the 85th minute, before the hard working Blake Powell grabbed a deserved consolation in the third minute of injury time.

The Phoenix created plenty of opportunities - before and after the Mariners double strike - but most were half chances, although Central Coast keeper Paul Izzo made two excellent saves.

However, there is no way to sugar coat the recent form of the Phoenix. Remember they lost to Newcastle two weeks ago, when the Australian side were on the verge of setting an A League record for a scoring drought, while Saturday night's defeat was particularly galling.

The Mariners have only won three matches this entire campaign; once on the opening weekend of the season, once against the Phoenix on New Years Eve and tonight. And before this match, the Central Coast side had gone 22 matches on the road without a win - the equivalent of almost two A League seasons.

The Phoenix need something; an injection of confidence (from somewhere), a change in tactics or a new signing. Things can change quickly in football but it's seems a long road back for the Phoenix from here.

Like most of their recent matches, there was no lack of endevour but this is a team that has lost their mojo. The lack of attacking punch has put more pressure on the defence, and that anxiety is bringing costly errors from their most reliable performers. Andrew Durante has made some uncharacteristic mistakes in recent weeks and Moss's mistake was another one.

From a regulation shot, the long time All Whites keeper dropped the ball at the feet of Garcia, with the former Liverpool striker showing his class with an instant back heeled finish. Two minutes later Garcia, who was pivotal in Liverpool's 2005 Champions league run and also played 20 matches for Spain, produced a delightful first time pass for Storm Roux, who chipped the advancing Moss from a tough angle. Austin's goal had a element of doubt - with another player involved in the play from an offside position - while Powell's strike was a classy team goal but way too little, too late.

The Phoenix last won a match on December 5, a 2-0 win over Melbourne Victory at Albany Stadium. They've been unable to score since Roy Krishna departed the scene and have had major problems defensively. Yesterday they were without the suspended Andrew Durante and Vince Lia, as well as the injured Ben Sigmund.

They started brightly, creating several half chances without being able to finish and the Mariners were limited to counter attacks in the first half. The Phoenix could have scored three times in the opening minutes of the second half, before Garcia's timely intervention which started the rot for the Wellington side.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (B Powell)
Central Coast Mariners 3 (L Garcia, S Roux, M Austin)

- Herald on Sunday

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