A night that began promisingly turned into disappointment for the Wellington Phoenix as they were beaten 4-1 by Sydney FC at Allianz Stadium on Sunday.
For the first half hour the Phoenix looked the more likely to take the lead and keep their slim playoff hopes alive, but they were rocked in the 33rd minute when referee Kris Griffiths-Jones awarded the home side a dubious penalty for a foul on Alessandro Del Piero.
If there was contact, it was initially outside the area before Del Piero took three more steps and went down.
The Italian picked himself up to put the spot kick past Phoenix keeper Glen Moss, and right on halftime added a second from a free kick he won himself just outside the penalty area.
Ironically Del Piero received a yellow card from Griffiths-Jones in the 68th minute for simulation to the cheers of the travelling Phoenix fans.
Carlos Hernandez reduced the deficit from the penalty spot after Jeremy Brockie was allegedly brought down by Seb Ryall, though that too appeared a dubious decision by Griffiths-Jones.
Ryall had his revenge within a minute as he finished off a sweeping move to put the home side 3-1 up.
Three minutes later Ali Abbas made it 4-1 with a superb strike from outside the box to wrap up the points.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick was pleased with the way his depleted side began the game.
“I thought we were the better side early on till the penalty and free kick knocked us back,” Merrick said.
“That is the way our season has gone with decisions.
“In the second half we got back into the game with a penalty that I didn-t think should have been given, but they replied immediately to go two goals up and I don-t think we have the experience in the side at the moment to cope with that situation.
“At the moment we only really have one good defensive midfielder in Vince Lia who did really well.
“Carlos (Hernandez) did well going forward but the lack of defending by our midfield exposed our backline.
“Going forward there was some good passing and movement but no goals to show for it, and if you don-t score goals you are not going to put the opposition under pressure.
“We had two tremendous chances in the first half, one of which I don-t know how they kept out but that has been the story of our season.”
Wellington Phoenix: Glen Moss, Michael Boxall, Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund (Luke Adams 81 min), Shaun Timmins, Vince Lia, Carlos Hernandez, Kenny Cunningham (Tyler Boyd 61 min), Matthew Ridenton (Jason Hicks 52m), Jeremy Brockie, Stein Huysegems.