A-League: Wellington Phoenix drop another goalfest, slip further off playoff pace

Wellington Phoenix have suffered another heartbreaking, highscoring defeat to slip further from the A-League playoff hunt at Wollongong.

Twice rallying to level the scores, the NZ side finally conceded a late matchwinner to fall 3-2 to Melbourne City and slide seven points out of the top-six post-season reckoning.

"For the neutral, it would have been a great game, but we were on the wrong side of it again," laments Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay. "We created opportunities to score, they created opportunities to score as well and they capitalised with three goals, we only scored two.

"It's stuff that we work on on the paddock at training and it's disappointing to concede soft goals like that."

Melbourne took the initial lead, when Craig Noone swung a corner kick into the box and Curtis Good headed past Phoenix goalkeeper Oli Sail.

Israeli Tomer Hemed responded for Wellington, when skipper Ulises Davila and David Ball created space down the left, with Ball finding his striker in the box to score the equaliser.

But as the first half wound down, City were ahead again, when Connor Metcalfe beat the defence and left-footed past Sail into the net. 

Davila provided the second equaliser, curling a low left-footer past Melbourne goalie Tom Glover from outside the penalty box.

But in the 83rd minute, substitute Marco Tilio provided the gamewinner, latching onto Metcalfe's cross to head past Sail.

"We were trailling twice and we came back twice, which was great from the boys," says Talay. "They showed good spirits to get back into the game, but we conceded a third, when we could have dealt with the situation a lot better.

"For me, it was very disappointing. We needed three points tonight to stay close to the top six."

Last month, the Phoenix were on the wrong side of a similar shootout, losing 4-3 to Western Sydney Wanderers, after a last-gasp equaliser was ruled out for offside.

Despite surrendering three goals against City, Sail has drawn special - albeit reluctant - praise from his coach.

"I think Oli was our best player," says Talay. "That's not a good thing, when your goalkeeper is your best player, but he kept us in the game and that's what he's there for.

"Since we chucked him in, I think Oli's been playing some really good football."

Victory puts Melbourne City into second on the A-League ladder, two points behind leaders Central Coast, while the Phoenix are seven points clear of bottom-placed Melbourne Victory.

Next Sunday, the Wellingtonians' next outing pits them against Western United, who sit one spot and two points adrift of the top six.