Football: Merrick sums up loss succinctly

Ernie Merrick
Ernie Merrick
Nine words was all Ernie Merrick needed.

"If you don't score goals, you don't win games," the Wellington Phoenix coach said after he watched his side lose their opening game of the season 2-1 to the Perth Glory in the capital yesterday.

It felt eerily similar to last season's A-League campaign; Wellington dominated patches of the match and looked sharp in the process but when it came to the crunch they lacked a killer touch in the front third and it came back to hurt them.

There was a goalmouth scramble mid-way through the first half which didn't fall the Phoenix's way, then striker Nathan Burns had a regulation one-on-one with Perth custodian Danny Vukovic but Vukovic made the save.

Then the Phoenix were blindsided as Andy Keogh put Perth ahead 1-0 in the 32nd minute. There was another similarity to last season too, the ball was given away by a Phoenix fullback and their usually-rock-solid centre backs, Ben Sigmund and Andrew Durante, were caught out again.

Wellington finally evened things up in the second spell but Glory replacement Jamie Maclaren pounced on a loose Vince Lia pass and found the winner with only a few minutes left.

"I'm really disappointed we didn't at least get a draw out of it," Merrick said. "I would have liked to have won so I'm pretty deflated. But it's the first game of the season and it was probably more nervy than I expected them to be."

Merrick has a point. It's only the first game of the new campaign, so it would be unfair to write the Phoenix off as also-rans but one of the concerns about their roster heading in to the season was their lack of a genuine striker up top.

Jeremy Brockie is a fine player but has rarely asserted himself in that role under Merrick. Brockie played in the centre of the front three against Perth and although he had his moments in the first spell, he didn't offer the side enough.

Of Wellington's five new recruits that started the game, Roly Bonevacia and Alex Rodriguez looked the best, while Michael McGlinchey was fairly well contained, although his goal came via a smooth finish, courtesy of a Burns cross.

Left back Tom Doyle had a decent outing but it was the rookie's failure to clear the ball that led to Perth's first goal.

"I think if I was the home team I'd probably feel a little hard done by," Perth coach Kenny Lowe said.

"Maybe in the balance, people can say we are fortunate but I'll take fortunate every single week."

Lowe said Merrick's men had potential.

"I think this was one of the best Wellington teams I've seen," Lowe said. "They've got some super footballers. They'll hurt some teams this year and the quality of football they play is very, very good."

It seems unlikely that Merrick will make any changes following the loss but his side will need to find a way to convert their chances when they head across the Tasman to meet the Central Coast Mariners in Gosford on Saturday.

Perth Glory 2 (Andy Keogh 32, Jamie Maclaren 86) Wellington Phoenix 1 (Michael McGlinchey 72) halftime: 1-0

- By Daniel Richardson of APNZ

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