Three costly mistakes were the downfall for the Wellington Phoenix as their A-League season ended with a 3-1 defeat against Melbourne victory on Friday night.
All of Melbourne's goals came off Phoenix errors, with Georg Niedermeier, Kosta Barbarouses and man-of-the-match Ola Toivonen all finding the back of the net, more than cancelling out Roy Krishna's strike at AAMI Park.
The result brings an end to what has been a successful season for the Phoenix under first-year coach Mark Rudan, who led the New Zealand side to their first finals campaign in four years.
Rudan, who will now leave the club to return to Australia, said he's "extremely proud" of his playing group, but was "bitterly disappointed" with how their season ended.
"I thought we performed admirably and I'm very proud of their performance," he said.
"Our three mistakes cost us. It's as simple as that. It was certain moments in the game that cost us, that's it. That's football, that's finals football.
"Victory are a good side, and they'll punish you for your mistakes. It's not as if any of their goals they worked something out of it or they outplayed us in any way. It was three mistakes, and they punished us for it as well.
"I'm bitterly disappointed ... I firmly believed we would be playing Perth Glory next week."
A foul by striker David Williams led to Niedermeier scoring the opening goal off Keisuke Honda's stunning free-kick.
Then early in the second half, Mandi Sosa's horrendous back-pass was intercepted by Toivonen, who found former Phoenix striker Barbarouses to score the defending champion's second of the night.
Golden Boot winner Krishna pegged one back for the visitors from a cross, but less than 10 minutes later, Michal Kopczynski deflected a pass straight to Toivonen who then chipped the ball over keeper Fillip Kurto for Melbourne's third.
"Being switched-on, focused. All those things you need to be on the money and we weren't in certain moments in the game, and that's what's cost us," Rudan added.
"It wasn't any well-worked move, or they created anything out of their quality where they scored goals, it was from our inexperience and our mistakes, but that happens.
"They [the players] will take a lot from this. A lot of these guys haven't played finals football, and it's a different beast altogether, particularly away from home against a team like Melbourne. That's where they'll be in better stead.
"Right from day one and I couldn't be prouder of the way they have elevated themselves and the players they have become and the kind of people they have become as well. They're superhuman beings."
Rudan is expected to be unveiled as coach of expansion team Western United as soon as this week, while the future of many of the players, including Krishna, remains uncertain.
Phoenix duo Williams and Kurto are expected to join Rudan at the Victoria-based side.
Rudan believes the Phoenix will continue to flourish without him.
"I believe as a club we're at a better place than we were in day one in preseason.
"If anyone questions the existence of this club, you're kidding yourself in terms of what we can do and what we've done this season.
"There's a platform there to build on, and I'm sure it will continue to go in the upwards fashion."