The Wellington Phoenix ended their FFA Cup season as a 10-men Bentleigh Greens side earned a 1-0 win on Tuesday night.
The Phoenix knew not to underestimate their opposition after Bentleigh Greens progressed to the semi-finals in 2014 and tonight proved to be no different.
In the opening stages the home side took control, patient in their build up but enjoyed very little chances to test the A-League side backline.
Mark Rudan’s men looked to press the hosts high up the pitch, forcing them to play back to goalkeeper Ryan Scott, who performed well under the pressure being applied from Nichols and Burns.
In the 9th minute, Bentleigh Greens’ James Kelly was late on Liberato Cacace, earning himself a yellow card which would later be costly.
The Phoenix had near moments in the game, Sarpreet Singh receiving the ball on the turn and attempting a through ball in behind, only for Scott to come off his line and clean up.
It wasn’t until the 23rd minute that the game jumped up a gear when a quickly taken corner was headed in by Marco Jankovic putting the home side in the ascendancy.
Rudan’s men responded by pushing forward.
A few rough tackles followed in the middle of the park and in the 33rd minute, a second yellow card for Kelly forced Bentleigh Greens down to 10 men.
The Wellington Phoenix were encouraged and began to attack with intent, searching for any possible opening in the home defence. Despite good combination play from Singh and Roy Krishna, the home side remained solid until the break.
Second half and the Phoenix enjoyed more of the ball, mixing it up in the final third. Two minutes in Krishna created space and drove a shot from outside the 18-yard box, only for Scott to get down low and smother the danger.
Despite being a man down, Bentleigh Greens still looked to press high up the pitch and win the ball back quickly. Singh again was quick and drove down the middle releasing a rasping shot heading for the top of the net, only for Scott to again save and relieve the danger.
With 15 minutes to go, Rudan made his first change of the evening, bringing on debutant Ben Waine from the Phoenix Academy. He was lively but the home defence remained tight.
With only minutes to go, Wellington Phoenix pushed further forward in search of the all-important equaliser but Bentleigh managed to win the ball and counter.
Ryan Lowry managed to get back and make the vital tackle but the Phoenix couldn’t find that opening which saw their FFA Cup campaign come to an end.