Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick was disappointed by the 4 nil loss to Adelaide United at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.
It was easy to understand Merrick’s frustration as he watched his team more than hold their own in the first 45 minutes only to go in at the break 2-0 down through goals from Dylan McGowan and Stefan Mauk.
“I thought we played well in the first half, having plenty of possession and playing most of the time in their half,” Merrick said. “We had more scoring opportunities than Adelaide but not many of our shots were on target.”
“The way we conceded the two first half goals from set plays was disappointing with the first coming from a corner when two of our players didn’t pick up who they were supposed to be marking,
“The second came from our free kick on the edge of their penalty area when a poor delivery gave Adelaide the chance to counter-attack which they did clinically.”
In the second half an early goal from Bruce Djite, who over the years has made a habit of scoring against the Phoenix, four minutes into the second spell put the points in the bag for Adelaide though Pablo Sanchez rubbed salt in the wounds with yet another clinical finish in the last minute.
The biggest disappointment for Merrick was the way his team reacted to Djite’s goal, letting their heads drop and not threatening the Adelaide goal as they had in the first spell.
“The third goal soon after half-time killed us. A ball was played in behind our backline and Goodwin got in an impossible cross yet they were the ones who got on the end of it and finished us off.
“After that I was really disappointed because I thought our lads put their heads down.
“We need a real winner up front and a more structured defence to prevent fast counter-attacks.
It wasn’t fitness, technique or skills; the lack of a winning mentality was our biggest problem.
We should be playing with a lot more pride and we missed the sort of character that Ben Sigmund has.”
Merrick also gave credit to Adelaide for the way they continued their unbeaten run.
“They lost one of their key players (Tarek Elrich) through injury early on, had Isaias missing and had a long journey to contend with but still came over here focussed on winning,” he said.