What we learned from Phoenix 0-2 City

Some will argue Ernie Merrick's conservative tactics came back to bite him at Westpac Stadium as City took their chances to book their place in the semi-finals against cross-town rivals Melbourne Victory.

Ernie Merrick chats to City boss John van't Schip prior to their Round 25 clash at AAMI Park.


Merrick pays the price for playing Fenton, Lia 


Picking the workmanlike Vince Lia in midfield instead of Alex Rodriguez and choosing young Louis Fenton - more often seen at fullback - as a winger was a conservative selection decision by Ernie Merrick. 


The coach, who has been rightly lauded for orchestrating some entertaining, attacking football in New Zealand earlier this season, reverted to his safety-first principles at just the wrong time, attempting to shut down Melbourne City rather than equipping his own team to do what they've done best in 2014-15.


Jonatan Germano celebrates his decisive goal for Melbourne City.


Germano shines in late-season purple patch


Merrick's folly was compounded when Jonatan Germano's name appeared at left-back on the visitors' team-mate sheet. Roy Krishna or Kenny Cunningham would have given the Argentine - capable but hardly a specialist defender - a far tougher time. 


Instead Fenton was anonymous, affording Germano a comfortable outing at the back and allowing him to push forward to good effect. 


Twice he supplied tempting crosses which Josh Kennedy went close to scoring from shortly before the veteran centre-forward struck the opener.


A few months ago Germano's City career appeared all but over as injury problems continued to plague the veteran. 


He's shown exactly how important he can be when fit late in the campaign, proving to be an able replacement for Jacob Melling in midfield before producing an assured display when called upon at left-back on Sunday night. 


Josh Kennedy holds the ball up for Melbourne City in their win over the Phoenix.


Kennedy delivers under pressure


A few eyebrows were raised when City, theoretically with a bottomless piggy bank at their disposal, opted to sign creaking veteran Josh Kennedy as their domestic marquee player.


The 32-year-old hasn't exactly dazzled us since making his debut in February, scoring just once until now from 10 starts. 


But he did exactly what was required of him in the elimination final at Westpac Stadium, serving as a focal point up front, keeping the Nix centre-backs busy and worrying goalkeeper Glen Moss when supplied with the right service.


A minute past the hour mark he was in exactly the right place at exactly the right time, staying onside by mere inches and getting a long limb to Aaron Mooy's shot, turning it home to give the away team a lead they never looked like relinquishing. It was his most important goal since sending the Socceroos to the World Cup with the winner against Iraq in 2013.


Disappointed Wellington players at full-time at Westpac Stadium.


Misfortune a factor but Phoenix must look at themselves


The match itself turned on three pieces of bad luck, as far as Wellington are concerned. 


There could have been a foul awarded to Roly Bonevacia for a push in the back as City launched the counterattack from which they opened the scoring. 


Referee Ben Williams might have considered showing himself a yellow card for tripping Vince Lia as he came across to cover in the same move. Durante meanwhile will be kicking himself for playing Kennedy onside for the goal itself.


Nine minutes later fate intervened again, as Harry Novillo's shot cannoned off the post, onto the head of Moss and back into the net. 


They say fortune favours the bold though and Wellington were nothing of the sort in what was a sudden-death final at home against suspect opponents. 


The seeds of this disappointing exit were sown in the Phoenix's late-season slump, which followed almost immediately after they took possession of first place. 


The men in yellow and black conspired to send their title hopes up in smoke. Perhaps something tougher will emerge from the ashes.