Football: Phoenix lack direction in loss

Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante.
Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante.
Playing ugly and winning is fine but when you play ugly and lose you've got a problem on your hands.

The Wellington Phoenix offered next to nothing this afternoon as they were comfortably beaten 2-1 by Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium.

Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante made no apologies during the week for his side winning ugly against the Western Sydney Wanderers last weekend, saying they were just doing what's required to get three points.

But his side were listless today as an Alessandro Del Piero-less Sydney FC were by far the better outfit, and the final scoreline flattered the Phoenix.

There's just something about a team who has a new coach, and Sydney seemed inspired playing their first official game under new mentor Frank Farina.

They were organised on defence, aggressive in the tackle and flew around the park at breakneck speed to shut down the Phoenix players who were too slow on the ball.

Wellington only registered four shots on target throughout the whole contest, one courtesy of Vince Lia as he stung the palms of Sydney custodian Vedran Janjetovic in the first spell but it was a comfortable save in the end.

Sydney absorbed their fair share of pressure in the opening 45 minutes and counter-punched at the right moment as Sebastian Ryall ran on to a beautiful Jason Culina cross to give the visitors the lead only seconds before half-time.

Ryall's well-placed header gave Phoenix goalkeeper Mark Paston no chance, and the wind was taken from the sails of the home side who barely strung a decent collection of passes together throughout the game.

With his side down 1-0, Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert went to his bench and summoned young tyros Louis Fenton and Tyler Boyd, but rather than remove a defensive player he pulled striker Stein Huysegems and midfielder Alex Smith.

It was a bizarre move given his side needed to chase the game and Herbert's use of the bench took another curious twist when he brought on Benjamin Totori for his side's best attacking weapon Paul Ifill after they conceded the all-important second goal.

It seemed questionable that Herbert would leave a full quota of defensive players out there when they were in such dire need of some inspiration in the final 20 minutes.

Sydney's second came through Rhyan Grant who beat the offside trap to loft the ball past Paston and seal the points for the Sky Blues.

Sydney skipper Terry McFlynn was given his marching orders late in the game as he received his second yellow card for a hand ball on the edge of the box.

Phoenix striker Jeremy Brockie, who has been in hot form of late, could only hit his free kick straight at Janjetovic who parried the ball down and averted any danger.

Brockie did manage to find his way onto the score sheet when he buried a penalty in stoppage time after Manny Muscat was fouled in the goal box, but it was too little to late.

It's back to the drawing board for the Phoenix who travel to South Australia next weekend to meet Adelaide United.

Sydney FC 2 (Sebastian Ryall 45+1, Rhyan Grant 69), Wellington Phoenix 1 (Jeremy Brockie 90+2) HT: 1-0.

- Daniel Richardson of APNZ