The Wellington Phoenix’ inability to score from the penalty spot again cost them dearly when they were beaten 2-1 by the Newcastle Jets in the opening round of the Hyundai A-League at Westpac Stadium on Sunday.
With the score level at 1-1 minutes into the second spell the Phoenix were awarded a penalty but Roy Krishna’s attempt was well saved by Jets keeper Mark Birighitti.
Had Krishna scored, the odds were on the Phoenix to go on and take the three points such was the home side’s dominance.
Instead Milos Trifunovic took advantage of sloppy Phoenix defending to score what turned out to the winner in the 71st minute.
David Carney had opened the scoring for the Jets with a header in the 30th minute when left unmarked in front of goal and the Phoenix had equalised two minutes into first half stoppage time with a Kjie Lee own goal.
The Phoenix’ dominance can be measured by the fact that, apart from the goals that he had little chance with, goalkeeper Glen Moss had only one save to make in the 90 minutes.
Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick had no complaints about the way his team played but lamented the lack of a cutting edge up front.
“We played the style of football I was looking for and we restricted them to three shots and the goalkeeper made one save with the other two being goals,” Merrick said.
“We dominated possession and passed the ball around well in midfield and our defence was solid so we did everything but score.
“Had we scored the penalty it might have been a different story because it doesn’t matter what the stats say it is all about scoring goals.
“I think we got penetration but it was only to the six-yard box.
“We created chances through the middle and I thought Mike McGlinchey was outstanding.
“The stats show we completely dominated the game but it comes down to the number of goals you score and we have to improve that.”
It didn’t help the home side’s cause that the game, especially in the second spell, was punctuated by foul after foul with the visitors clocking up five cautions, two of them to captain Nigel Boogaard who was sent off 13 minutes from the end.
The Phoenix cause wasn’ t helped by losing captain Andrew Durante with a calf injury in the 27th minute.
Durante had missed training with a calf problem late in the week but Merrick said that wasn’t the problem.
“At first we thought it was that but it was a kick in the calf that tightened up and caused him a lot of pain.”
Merrick said initial indications were that Durante would be able to make the trip to Perth on Friday, but he would have a scan to confirm the extent of it once the injury settled down.
Wellignton Phoenix: Moss(g/k), Muscat, Sigmund, Fenton (Rodriguez 73'), Durante(c) (Doyle 27’), Bonevacia, Lia, Riera, McGlinchey, Krishna, Powell (Sarpong 61’)
Newcastle Jets : Birighitti(g/k), Hoffman, Mullen, Boogaard(c), Ki-Je, Leonardo (Haliti 81'), Watson (Kantarovski 61'), Alivodic, Carney, Poljak, Trifunovic (Cooper 90+2’)
Scorers : Carney(30’), Ki-Je og (45+2), Trifunovic (70')
Red cards: Boogaard (77’)
Yellow cards: Lia (50’), Boogaard (52’,77’), Carney(56’), Krishna(63') Kantarovski(89'), Alivodić(95')
Conditions: 15°C, fine