Football: Controversial victory over Sydney FC can ignite Wellington Phoenix's A-League campaign, says captain Alex Rufer

Wellington Phoenix believe their chaotic 1-0 victory over Sydney FC can ignite their charge towards a potential A-League playoff spot.

In a controversial Allianz Stadium meeting, the Phoenix held on to claim three points, despite losing two players to red cards and surviving two stoppage-time penalties, thanks to goalkeeper Oli Sail.

The Phoenix would be right to feel aggrieved about the first penalty awarded against them - a handball against defender Tim Payne, which replays showed to be incorrect, but wasn't overturned by the video official.

The pair of Bozhidar Kraev and Nicholas Pennington were shown red cards in the dying stages to reduce the Phoenix to nine men. Pennington's red card came amid a clash with Sydney midfielder Max Burgess, who only saw yellow for his role in the same incident.

Sail saved one penalty from Adam Le Fondre and watched the second miss the target completely, as the Phoenix held out for one of the most dogged wins in their history.

After making his own return to the field after a nine-month injury layoff, captain Alex Rufer believes Saturday's result can be the catalyst for a Phoenix resurgence.

"I think we've been very close this year," said Rufer. "Some of our performances have been very good, we just haven't got results.

"That sort of result, grinding through like that, creates a lot of team morale and fighting spirit. You should have seen how happy the boys were, how proud we were to get that result.

"Now it's about keeping consistent and trying to get on a run, keeping the momentum going."

Meanwhile, Sail hasn't held back in his appraisal of referee Shaun Evans, after seeing more than one key decision go against the Phoenix.

"It's difficult, I don't want to say something that gets me in trouble," Sail said. "But yesterday, I felt like we were on the wrong side of a few [decisions], a few more than usual.

"A couple of them aren't sitting right with me. The first handball I don't think was a penalty and Nico's red card seems harsh, given the regular occurrence of those moments. 

"That was frustrating, but all's well that ends well."

Sail doesn't think Evans was against the Phoenix, despite decisions repeatedly going against them.

Wellington Phoenix celebrate Adam Le Fondre's penalty miss.
Wellington Phoenix celebrate Adam Le Fondre's penalty miss. Photo credit: Getty Images

"A few of the big decisions, when you stack them up, it might feel like that, but I don't think he had any intention of being against us or anything like that.

"There were periods of the game where I thought he was refereeing the game quite well and periods where I think he didn't. I don't think there was anything untoward."

Victory moves the Phoenix into sixth on the A-League ladder, occupying the final playoff place.