Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick has declared himself satisfied with a point after a late penalty earned his side a 1-1 Hyundai A-League draw with Sydney FC at Westpac Stadium.
A game which failed to reach any great heights sprung to life in the last few minutes with Roy Krishna’s assured finish from the spot cancelling out Filip Holosko’s excellent curling effort just moments before. Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss had earlier saved a penalty from Andrew Hoole.
“I thought our performance was flat,” said Merrick afterwards.
“In the first half, we didn’t defend particularly well on the flanks but we still created a couple of good chances. We weren’t keeping the ball well in the front half and they were causing us more problems than we were causing them. We reorganised our midfield and defended a lot better in the second half but we weren’t keeping the ball moving forward.”
And Merrick conceded his side may have been fortunate to draw the match.
“In a way I thought we were a bit lucky to get a point, but in the middle of the season you’ve just got to keep picking up points,” he said.
“We didn’t play our best football. In the end, the game came down to two penalties – we scored ours and they missed theirs. It was a great save by Glen and was very important to us.”
“(Football) isn’t an honest game, is it? You can play really well and get nothing out of the game like we did last week and then you have a flat performance and get a point out of it, so I’ll take whatever points are coming our way,” said Merrick.
And the Phoenix mentor was quick to credit the Sky Blues for preventing his side from achieving any cohesiveness in the front third.
“Sydney are very hard to play against,” he said.
“We knocked the ball around really well in the middle and at the back but when we tried to get in between their lines up front there was no space. We’d lose the ball and they’d break quickly and that (system) works really well for them. It stopped us playing our more fluid game, especially up front.”
Furthermore, Merrick now has a selection headache ahead of a Boxing Day visit to Adelaide United. Louis Fenton limped off with suspected ankle ligament damage and Tom Doyle is suspended after picking up his fifth yellow card of the season, drawing the ire of his coach.
“It’s really disappointing to lose Tom because just about every game he plays, he gets a yellow card and it’s usually needless. He’s put us under pressure now for the fullback role,” said Merrick.
Fellow defenders Justin Gulley and Ben Sigmund are also still in doubt after sitting out this game with hamstring niggles.