Wellington Phoenix have wasted another gilt-edged opportunity to promote their home playoff aspirations, falling 2-1 to struggling Melbourne Victory at Wellington's Sky Stadium.
Needing to finish in the top four to secure a post-season fixture in the capital, the Phoenix seemed well on track, when Polish striker Oskar Zawada lobbed over Victory keeper Paul Izzo in the 25th minute for the lead.
After the halftime break, momentum swung back the other way, with Bruno Fornaroli nodding past Wellington custodian Oli Sail from a corner, then Damien da Silva converting another corner from close range.
"We let ourselves down," admitted captain Alex Rufer. "We were poor from set-pieces and they punished us.
"For us, we switched off. It's not an individual, it's collectively.
"We need to be better from those moments and today, we let ourselves down massively."
The result raises Victory off the foot of the competition table for now, with a second consecutive win, while a second straight loss to the Phoenix sees them stalled in fifth, missing a chance to move ahead of Central Coast Mariners into the top four.
An unfortunate feature of their 2023 campaign has been the number of points they've let slip, despite leading in games. Add three more to that running tally.
"It's a big blow, but we've got four games left," said Rufer. "We know where we are.
"Yes, it's disappointing, but we go again. We believe in ourselves, we're a good team and it's down to us now."
Wellington Phoenix next visit league leaders Melbourne City on Easter Monday.
Meanwhile, the Phoenix women have ended their second campaign with a 2-2 draw against defending champions Melbourne Victory, but still not enough to escape the wooden spoon for the second straight year.
Wellington trailed 2-0 late in the match, but drew level with goals from Ava Pritchard and Grace Wisnewski in added time.
Their 3-4-11 record represented an improvement on their 2-1-11 outcome in 2021/22.
Melbourne Victory 2 (Fornaroli & da Silva) Wellington Phoenix 1 (Zawada)
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Pritchard & Wisnewski) Melbourne Victory 2 (Murphy &Ayres)2023-04-01T04:08:35Z dg43tfdfdgfd