Phoenix halt Sydney FC's run
Wellington dealt a significant blow to Sydney FC's A-League finals hopes with an upset 1-0 win at the Sydney Football Stadium on Saturday.
A goal to Phoenix star Paul Ifill earned the visitors a valuable three competition points as Sydney failed to capitalise on their domination in front of 10,165 home fans.
Sydney were searching for a third-straight win but the loss means they drop outside the top six, leaving their finals hopes in limbo with four tough games remaining.
The Phoenix, meanwhile, bounced back from two straight losses and strengthened their claims for a top-four finish.
Sydney would have been left wondering how they failed to salvage at least a point, having dominated possession and field position and creating far more chances than their opponents.
They also had what looked a decent penalty shout turned down in the 23rd minute, when Joel Chianese was brought down by Mark Paston, but the young striker was instead shown a yellow card for simulation.
The Sky Blues started brightly with Bruno Cazarine firing one shot just over the bar and forcing a good save out of Paston with another inside the first ten minutes.
But the Phoenix took a surprise lead against the run of play in the 13th minute.
Tony Lochhead's floated cross found Ifill inside the box and the striker did brilliantly to steer a firm header beyond Ivan Necevski.
Sydney's marquee star Brett Emerton looked sharp and the Sky Blues should have equalised just before halftime when his superb cross set up Cazarine but the unmarked Brazilian headed his shot straight at Paston from close range.
Ifill almost took advantage of some sloppy defending to double the Phoenix's advantage just after the break but hit his shot across the face of goal.
Sydney pushed hard for an equaliser, with Emerton coming close twice and Andrew Durante making a crucial clearance to prevent a Phoenix own goal.
Necevski made a fine close-range save to deny Chris Greenacre in the 65th minute but Sydney's frustrations continued in front of goal.
Sydney coach Vitezslav Lavicka turned to youth by injecting Terry Antonis and Mitch Mallia into the match late in the second half but it failed to pay off for the Sky Blues as it had in recent weeks.
Michael Beauchamp summed up Sydney's afternoon when he scooped an injury-time shot over virtually an open net in the dying seconds.