Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick was pleased with the way his team competed despite suffering a 2-1 defeat against table-toppers the Brisbane Roar at Suncorp Stadium on Friday night.
Merrick pointed to high heat and humidity and a fortunate deflection on Brisbane's winning goal as factor's in his side's battling loss, and hinted that the Phoenix would get their revenge come finals time.
The New Zealand side took a deserved lead through Stein Huysegems in the first half, before Brisbane fought back with spectacular second-half strikes from youngster Devante Clut and Luke Brattan.
The Phoenix coach said that although his players were deeply disappointed to go down to Brattan's late effort, he was happy at the effort they put in.
"The boys are gutted by the result, but I was actually very impressed with our performance," Merrick said after the match.
"In the first half, I thought we've come up here in the heat and humidity, and it's a good team Brisbane Roar, top of the league by far, and we took the game right up to them.
"We hit the post early on, there were several balls across the six yard box that just needed a tap in, and we scored a goal.
"And I thought, well this is impressive, but I knew that the humidity, more than the heat, was going to take its toll in the second half.
"So I felt as though we could have definitely gone two ahead in the first half, maybe three with a bit of luck, and the boys were dying at half time.
"Humidity's the killer, not the heat.
"But they just gave everything in the second half."
Merrick said it had taken a little luck going Brisbane's way in order for them to overcome his determined side.
"The equaliser was a good goal," he admitted.
"The winner they got, five minutes from the end, which they've got a habit of doing against us, was from about 22 metres, took a deflection off Leo (Bertos), and I reckon our goalkeeper Glenn (Moss) would have got to it, except it scraped right inside the post.
"So it took a really good shot from Luke Brattan to get the win, otherwise I don't think they would have scored."
A confident Merrick is already looking forward to improving his side's recent poor record against Brisbane in the finals series.
"As I say, I was just really impressed with the performance, and we'll meet them in the final and sort it out properly."comments