Newcastle Jets 3
Wellington Phoenix 0
The Wellington Phoenix have endured a frustrating evening in their last regular season match of the A-League season, going down 3-0 to the Newcastle Jets at Jubilee Stadium.
The scoreline wasn't a true reflection of the game with Wellington dominating for large periods and being repeatedly denied by a spirited defensive effort from Newcastle and an impressive debut from teenage goalkeeper Noah James.
Despite the loss, the Phoenix remain third on the table and will finish in that position (their best) unless Western United beat both of the top sides – Sydney FC and Melbourne City – in the two remaining games of the regular season. It also seals second place for Melbourne City who along with minor premiers Sydney FC have earned direct entry into the semifinals.
The Phoenix laid siege to the Newcastle goal from the opening whistle but were unable to find a way past a packed Newcastle defence, protecting 19-year-old James in goal. The best chance fell to David Ball who was unable to profit in a one-on-one situation, while Callan Elliot saw his angled shot tipped over and Ball had the ball in the net, only to be denied by an offside flag.
Despite the onslaught, Newcastle held firm and opened the scoring late in the first half, Nick Fitzgerald finishing a flowing move and beating Stefan Marinovic from ten yards with the help of a deflection.
Marinovic was called into action early in the second half, flinging himself to his left to save brilliantly as a deflected shot from Dimi Petratos looked destined for the top corner. Angus Thurgate also saw his first-time effort cannon off the post, but as the Phoenix chased an equaliser, the game opened up and substitute Bernie Ibini doubled Newcastle's lead with a powerful run and shot. Wellington had a confident shout for a penalty waved away before Jason Hoffman extended the margin shortly afterwards.
Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay made two changes to the side that drew 1-1 with Brisbane last week, replacing injured striker Gary Hooper with Callum McCowatt and restoring Luke DeVere to central defence following his one-match ban. Elliot retained the right-back spot ahead of Louis Fenton and again impressed, particularly on attack.
Libby Cacace was a constant threat down Wellington's left, creating several openings, but this wasn't to be the Phoenix's night. The result means they have won only one of their six matches since the competition resumption, collecting just five of an available 18 points.
Wellington now have nine days to regroup and prepare for an elimination final, but won't know who they'll face until the last match of the regular season is played on Wednesday. Brisbane Roar, Western United and Perth Glory are their possible opponents.
Newcastle Jets 3 (Fitzgerald 45', Ibini 76', Hoffman 79')
Wellington Phoenix 0