Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert.
Wellington Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert. Mark Mitchell

More bad news for Phoenix

IF THERE was any consolation for Ricki Herbert in watching his Wellington Phoenix drop their first game of the A-League season it was, in wearing his other hat, that the only goal of the match was scored for Perth Glory by All Whites striker Shane Smeltz.

And in the other 1-0 result of the third round it was another of his international charges who was on the scoresheet as Jeremy Brockie got his Newcastle Jets over the line - also with a first half strike - to beat coast rivals Central Coast Mariners.

Losing to Perth now - the only unbeaten team apart from defending champions Brisbane Roar - again came at a cost to the Phoenix.

Dropping a place to fourth, they now face a Melbourne Victory side still chasing their first win of the season at home on Sunday and must do it without right back Manny Muscat, who got two yellow cards (and a red) and will miss the Westpac Stadium game.

It's early days but already the team are making it hard for themselves with their poor disciplinary record.

Muscat, who was also booked a week earlier, joins Tim Brown and Nick Ward as their third player to miss a match. Daniel Cortes, Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead and captain Andrew Durante have already opened their yellow card accounts for the season.

Given the shocking injury run and with an already thin squad, the last thing Herbert needs is having players sidelined for such indiscretions.

Despite these woes, the Phoenix continue to be competitive.

During the match at nib Stadium they again had an edge in possession, especially in the last 20 minutes or so, and a couple of times went close to scoring deserved goals.

They were undone by former team-mate Smeltz who cashed in when Daniel was harshly pulled up for a foul on Liam Miller.

Jacob Burns picked out Bas van den Brink with his free kick and the ball was nodded on to Smeltz who provided the finish.

Down by that goal at the break, the visitors went within millimetres of levelling the scores nine minutes into the second half when Sigmund, who turned in another workmanlike effort, headed a Daniel corner straight at Danny Vukovic and the former Phoenix custodian somehow tipped the ball on to the crossbar.

Brockie was only ever going to play an hour for the Jets but in that time, the All White was all class and deservedly rewarded with the only goal of the match at Ausgrid Stadium.

Goals remain at a premium.

The weekend's rivalry round produced just eight goals to bring the season tally to 27 at an average of 1.8 per game.

Brisbane again broke the mould in scoring three unanswered goals in beating Gold Coast at Suncorp and Sydney FC, down a goal at halftime, hit back with two in the second half to beat Adelaide United away 2-1.

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