Late heartbreak as Phoenix succumb to Maclaren sucker-punch

Wellington Phoenix have fallen just short of a memorable week for the club after Jamie Maclaren's late goal handed Brisbane Roar all three points at Westpac Stadium on Saturday night.

Just moments shy of their third clean sheet in eight days, a mistake at the back has hurt Wellington as Brisbane Roar have picked the Phoenix's pockets with fourth place on the A-League ladder on the line.

Wellington started brightly, and in the 4th minute Roly Bonevacia's clever ball found Kosta Barbarouses but his wicked cross evaded his Phoenix teammates.

Brisbane Roar's Jack Hingert fashioned the first effort on goal, as Glen Moss watched his driven shot onto the outside of the post and away for a goalkick.

Tommy Oar then ran hard and straight at the Wellington back four and the veteran custodian did well to comfortably spoon his effort around the post.

With momentum swinging both ways, Roy Krishna then fired in a dangerous near-post shot but Michael Theo's block rolled agonising away from the on-rushing Shane Smeltz.

In a tense and tight first half some moments of sublime skill from Bonevacia illuminated the contest. None better than in the 36th minute when the Dutchman burst through the Roar defence, miraculously controlled a one-two pass but then lost his footing before he could add the finish the move deserved.

Dimitri Petratos remained an ever-present threat from the set-piece, but it was Phoenix who finished the half sharper, as Barbarouses' acute-angled shot found the side netting. 

In the second half it was Bonevacia who first rippled the net - but unfortunately for one half of the stadium it was the side netting, after a sharp late run.

Barbarouses then delighted the fans with a sharp nutmeg on Luke DeVere to go clear through on goal, but the forward elected to pass instead of shooting and his cross was comfortably dealt with.

Gui Finkler and Michael McGlinchey then entered the contest with Smeltz and an injured Vince Lia making way and the Brazilian had an early effect feeding Jacob Tratt for a shot driven at Theo.

Petratos then flashed a fierce snap shot in the 65th minute, but Moss was equal to the task, holding well.

A controversial moment in the 67th when Barbarouses appeared to be bodychecked right on the eighteen-yard box but no foul was given - before Bonevacia snuffed out Brisbane's counterattack, cleanly executing a tackle from behind.

Finkler then flashed a dangerous freekick just over the crossbar after Barbarouses was crudely brought down outside the box, before Moss palmed away a thumping strike from Petratos.

But it was substitute Maclaren who grabbed the headlines and the three points for the visitors after he bamboozled Wellington captain Andrew Durante to finish comfortably past Moss.

Wellington Head Coach Des Buckingham was disappointed with the result, but heartened by the effort from the team across the three matches.

“We’ve created as many chances as they have, looking at what I just looked at,” Buckingham said.

“We’re just disappointed to have conceded in the 87th minute in the way we did after what was a good performance on the back of good results over the past couple of weeks.

“I don’t think fitness is the reason we lost the game, I just think it was a lapse in concentration and unfortunately in the 87th minute that’s cost us.

“Mistakes happen and that’s fine, we will put our heads down, reassess everybody and make sure everyone’s fine for Adelaide and go again next week.”

The result opens a gap between Brisbane and Wellington on the A-League ladder, with Phoenix now looking to get back to winning ways away to Adelaide next Sunday.