Wellington skipper and birthday boy Andrew Durante was left to lament his side's 2-0 loss to Melbourne City in their Hyundai A-League Elimination Final at Westpac Stadium.
After topping the league table for three weeks in March, the Phoenix have fallen at the first Finals hurdle to prematurely end their promising season.
“It’s extremely disappointing,” said a crestfallen Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante afterwards.
“You play all season to get to this point and you don’t want to go out in the first week.
“You want to go as far as possible and I believed we had the team that was good enough to win this game and then challenge further on in the next couple of weeks, but it wasn’t to be.”
Despite the loss, Durante was able to reflect on the positive strides made by his team in the past year.
“We’re a completely different side from twelve months ago,” he said.
“From where we came last year – second bottom – to challenging for a top two spot with two weeks to go was exciting, but we fell away towards the end, which was disappointing.
“Ernie’s transformed us into a free-scoring, attacking team and I think that’s what the fans want to see.
“Obviously everyone’s disappointed with the outcome tonight, but there were loads of positives throughout the season.
“We’ve still got the nucleus of the squad here for next season. There’re good signs for next year – we’ll be back stronger,” he said.
And Durante put the loss down to some familiar recent problems.
“We fell away again tonight, not taking our chances and conceding soft goals. It seems like that’s the story of our last five or six weeks.”
Goalkeeper Glen Moss said the players were taking the defeat hard.
“It hurts the senior boys a little bit more – guys like me who thought if we were going to do it, it was going to be this year,” said Moss.
“You just have to suck it up, get on with it, learn from it and not let it happen again.
“I’ll just have to hunker down in my bedroom for a few days and hopefully emerge a happier person,” he said.