Wellington Phoenix 1
Newcastle Jets 2

In the darkest depths of Ernie Merrick's nightmares, the script for a hypothetical season-opener would have resembled what transpired tonight in Wellington.

The Phoenix fell to an agonising defeat against the Newcastle Jets in their first game of the new A-League campaign, suffering through 90 minutes that contained all the elements of a horror show.

There was the loss of captain Andrew Durante to injury. There were the opponents, with Newcastle coming off a last-placed season in which they won just three of 27 games.


There was the context - a squad Merrick called the best he's had at the club crashing to a second defeat from their last 14 clashes with the Jets at Westpac Stadium. And then there was Roy Krishna's missed penalty.

For any Phoenix fans wondering where the goals will come from after Nathan Burns' departure, they can certainly cross the penalty spot off the list of potential scoring avenues.

Burns led his side with 13 goals last season but even the competition's best player struggled from 12 yards as the Phoenix missed three penalties throughout the campaign. Such are their woes from the spot, Merrick's men are responsible for six of the last 12 failed penalties in the A-League.

Krishna's transgression came early in the second half when, after Roly Bonevacia drew his side level on the stroke of halftime, the Phoenix were in position to seize control. But Krishna's effort was under-hit and Mark Birighitti turned it around the post, laying the platform for Milos Trifunovic's winner.

Aside from all that went wrong, the Phoenix actually performed pretty well, though that calls to mind the expression about enquiring what Mrs Lincoln thought of the quality of production at Ford's Theatre.

Wellington were comfortable with the ball almost from the opening kick-off, taking command as Newcastle appeared content to soak up pressure and hit on the break. Durante soon succumbed to a calf complaint and, although his substitution preceded David Carney's headed opener, the Phoenix rarely looked lost without their leader.

Creating clear-cut chances was the problem, though, with Bonevacia's strike from Michael McGlinchey's cross one of only a couple of sights of goal. The Phoenix chose the wrong option at times and tried to do too much on other occasions, lacking penetration in the first half and composure in the second.

Their goal showed how flowing the Phoenix can play while enjoying a dominance of possession, as did a late Krishna drive that required another superb bit of intervention from Birighitti. It's probably best for Merrick to forget about the nightmare start and focus instead on next weekend's trip to Perth.

Wellington Phoenix 1 (Roly Bonevacia 45+2)
Newcastle Jets 2 (David Carney 30, Trifunovic 70)
HT: 1-1