Football: Phoenix fall to embarrassing defeat

By Kris Shannon

Wellington Phoenix 1 Melbourne City 5
Anthony Caceres of Melbourne City and Roy Krishna of the Phoenix battle for possession. Photo / Getty
Anthony Caceres of Melbourne City and Roy Krishna of the Phoenix battle for possession. Photo / Getty

The Wellington Phoenix have seven games to save their season - and their co-coaches have seven games to save their jobs.

The reign of Des Buckingham and Chris Greenacre tonight sunk to a new, ignominious low, overseeing their side's heaviest home defeat of the season against Melbourne City.

Having taken over from Ernie Merrick in December, Buckingham and Greenacre have now overseen a 12-match period that has produced three wins, two of which came against the lowly Central Coast.

The Phoenix have lost four of their last five and, although the A-League playoffs are not yet out of the question, they are closer to last than they are fifth. Based on tonight's horror show, the wooden spoon is much more likely than a finals berth.

Last week's 3-1 loss against Sydney FC was described by Vinnie Lia as his side's worst performance of the season but it's clear the midfielder spoke too soon.

The opening half hour told the story of Wellington's slide and, indeed, their season. The Phoenix on another night - or, perhaps more saliently, if they were another team - could have conceivably taken a commanding 3-0 lead. Instead, they fell 2-0 behind.

Missing a clinical edge at one end and lacking both fortune and concentration at the other, the opening stages exemplified all that has plagued Wellington throughout the campaign. Defending their goal, it was easy to say they were missing Andrew Durante, but he was part of the rearguards that shipped six goals in back-to-back losses to the Sydney sides.

Tonight, without their suspended skipper, the Phoenix suffered numerous problems at the back. Melbourne's first goal came after a failed offside trap gave Nick Fitzgerald the freedom of Westpac Stadium, with the winger's eventual cross diverted into his own net by Ryan Lowry.

The second also contained an element of luck but also saw the Phoenix contribute to their own demise, switching off at the wrong moment to allow Bruno Fornaroli a simple finish when Manny Muscat swung and missed at a squared free kick.

That was part of an eventful start for Muscat, who was involved in an initial mix-up that gave Roy Krishna a golden chance. The former Phoenix defender then brought down Kosta Barbarouses for a penalty but, given the challenge featured little contact, there was justice for Muscat as Barbarouses' spot kick cannoned off the bar.

After those two opportunities were squandered, Roly Bonevacia wasted another excellent chance. But, in truth, such a lead would have flattered the Phoenix, who were applying pressure only in patches and enjoying few spells of possession.

That continued in a disjointed second spell that saw the home side pose a greater threat to themselves than the Melbourne goal. As was the case early, there appeared little organisation in the 18-yard box when Anthony Caceras fired home a third, leaving the Phoenix half an hour from another dispiriting defeat.

Barbarouses did briefly improve the mood with a fine individual goal that saw him slip the ball between the legs of three Melbourne players. But, as aesthetically pleasing as that strike was, there was nothing but ugliness to come as more shambolic defending saw the visitors complete a rout.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (K. Barbarouses 69)
Melbourne City 5 (own goal 20, B. Fornaroli 29, A. Caceras 59, N. Kilkenny, N. Colazo)
Halftime: 0-2

- NZ Herald

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