April 27, 2015 11:40:52 UK
Wellington Phoenix were left to rue another penalty miss as they squandered the chance to finish second in the A-League by losing 2-1 at home to Sydney FC.
Sydney picked up the victory that secured them a home semi-final, and a place in the qualifying round of next year’s Asian Champions League, with goals before the break from Bernie Ibini and Shane Smeltz.
Former Wellington favourite Smeltz showed the home side how to take a penalty when he scored from the spot on 32 minutes. That gave the Sky Blues a two-goal cushion at Westpac Stadium and rubbed salt into Ernie Merrick’s side’s wounds.
The Phoenix, needing a win to pip the visitors for second spot, had the perfect opportunity to go in front early on when Michael McGlinchey was upended in the area by Ibini.
Roly Bonevacia sent his spot-kick wide of the left-hand post, the fifth time this season that Wellington, who are 7/1 to win the Grand Final, have missed a penalty.
They were soon made to pay by Ibini, who beat Albert Riera for pace down the left wing and jinked past Louis Fenton in the area before finishing with a powerful shot past stand-in keeper Lewis Italiano.
The Phoenix keeper, on his debut, was left to face a penalty after Albert Riera brought down Christopher Naumoff. He got a hand to Smeltz’s shot but couldn’t keep it out as the visitors doubled their advantage.
Wellington needed to make a better start to the second half and it came when they pulled a goal back just a minute after the restart. Nathan Burns fired a low cross into the area which defender Michael Boxall drilled home to give them hope.
The home side were unable to lift themselves, though, and only managed two shots on target in the game.
The defeat still left them with a fourth-place finish, and they will host Melbourne City in next weekend’s elimination final.
The Phoenix are 2.00 to beat Melbourne City, who are 3.50.
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