Wellington Phoenix’s horrendous run of A-League luck continued on Sunday, leaving them once again hit hard by injury and suspension as Adelaide United ground out a 1-0 win.
Adelaide hadn’t won in Wellington since 2007, but Marcelo Carrusca’s 58th-minute penalty at Westpac Stadium was enough to see them home.
The win consolidates Adelaide’s fourth place on the ladder with 37 points, ahead of fifth-placed Melbourne Victory on goal difference and one point astray of Western Sydney Wanderers in third.
In contrast the Phoenix sit eighth on 28 points, with next to no chance of making the top six.
They also look set to face Sydney FC and the Victory in the last two games of the season without gritty midfielder Manny Muscat, who picked up his eighth yellow card of the season and a consequent two-match suspension.
Muscat has already been suspended twice, stood down for one match after five yellow cards, and hit with a three-match suspension for twice elbowing Brisbane Roar’s Nick Fitzgerald in early January.
Central defender Ben Sigmund, returning on Sunday after serving a one-match suspension, is in doubt with a torn thigh muscle, and midfielder Vince Lia’s groin strain also leaves a question mark over his head.
Coach Ernie Merrick has already lost a swathe of players to injury, including star striker Paul Ifill, key midfielders Albert Riera and Reece Caira, and talented defender Louis Fenton.
A resigned Merrick says the unrelenting march of injuries has taken its toll.
“If you lose that many quality players, you’re changing the team every week,” he said.
“That’s been the story of the year. It’s been a tough year.”
Despite the doubt surrounding his roster for the last two games, Merrick isn’t about to throw in the towel.
“We still want to compete in the last two games – we’re not just going to throw it away,” he said.
“It’s not about blooding youngsters, it’s up to them to earn a spot. We want to win the last two games away to Sydney and home to Victory.”