Western Sydney 1
The ten-man Wellington Phoenix have missed the chance to secure their place in the A-League finals after a disappointing 1-0 loss to the Western Sydney Wanderers at Bankwest Stadium.
Substitute Kwame Yeboah was the hero for the Wanderers, heading home the game's only goal in the 73rd minute after Wellington defender Luke Devere was sent off for a second yellow card eight minutes earlier.
The loss drops Wellington to third place on goals scored behind Melbourne City, who have a game in hand, but face runaway league leaders Sydney FC tomorrow night. It also leaves the Phoenix still needing at least one point from their final two regular season matches to guarantee their playoff spot.
The game was marred by a sickening collision midway through the first half which left Western Sydney's German striker Nicolai Muller knocked out cold after a clash of heads with Louis Fenton. Fenton earned a booking and was perhaps fortunate to avoid a red card for his mistimed – but not malicious – aerial challenge. Fortunately, Muller regained consciousness and was monitored by the club doctor for the remainder of the evening.
The lengthy delay seemed to affect the Phoenix, who produced a strangely disjointed display with little in the way of attacking cohesion or chance creation. The Wanderers were far more fluid, their best first-half chance coming in added time when Mitch Duke fired a shot straight at Stefan Marinovic from ten yards.
After rotating his squad in last weekend's 1-1 draw with Adelaide, Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay selected his strongest available eleven, with young Kiwi Callum McCowatt getting the nod over Australian attacker Reno Piscopo. But the Phoenix coach now has some thinking to do after his side's worst outing since the competition restart.
Wellington's best chance came after just three minutes when, at the end of a sweeping movement, David Ball's curling effort struck the post and all but crossed the line before rolling to safety.
The Phoenix next face fourth-placed Brisbane on Wednesday evening in their penultimate regular season game. Talay will be without Devere through suspension, but will welcome back fellow defender Tim Payne who has now completed a four-match ban for his golf-cart joyride in March.
Western Sydney Wanderers 1 (Yeboah 73')
Wellington Phoenix 0