Amid all the doom and gloom of a 4-1 loss to Melbourne Victory at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night Ernie Merrick still found something to smile about.
“It was a pretty flat performance but at least the two players who ripped us apart, Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler, will be in our squad next season,” Merrick said with a smile.
“Barbarouses isolates players one on one, has got the speed and technical ability to beat any player in the league, sets up goals and scores goals himself.
“Finkler ran the whole attacking midfield. His work rate is end to end but he never breaks into a sweat as he plays at the same pace throughout.
“His first touch takes him away from players so he rarely gets tackled and his vision and quality of passing is the best in the league.”
There was little to enthuse about in his own players display however with a slow start seeing them concede two goals – to Besart Berisha and Oliver Bozanic – in the first 20 minutes.
“Those two goals made life very difficult for us and Victory looked really sharp in knocking the ball around.
“If Dura had scored with that header instead of the ball hitting the goalkeeper it might have been different because when you score a goal it lifts you, but overall it was a flat performance.”
The Phoenix were given a lift when the Victory were reduced to 10 men with the dangerous Berisha shown a red card by referee Ben Williams for kicking out at Andrew Durante while lying on the ground receiving treatment for a perceived head injury.
Unfortunately the numbers were evened up when Albert Riera was shown a second yellow card early in the second spell.
“I said at half time that anyone on a yellow should be careful so he let us all down by getting himself booked again,” Merrick said.
Melbourne went 3-0 up when Finkler set Barbarouses up for a third goal before Roly Bonevacia breathed life into the game with a late goal.
An exciting finish looked on the cards when substitute Hamish Watson, who added some enthusiasm to the Phoenix’ cause, won a penalty but Michael McGlinchey blasted his spot kick well wide.
“Had we scored that with about eight minutes left it would have been a really exciting finish, but the kick was wayward and summed our season up,” Merrick said.