Football: Missed penalties see Wellington Phoenix slump to consecutive A-League losses

Two missed penalties have returned to haunt Wellington Phoenix, as they suffered back-to-back defeats and barely held onto their A-League playoff spot with a 2-1 defeat to Macarthur FC.

Former Phoenix custodian Filip Kurto kept his new team in the contest with twin saves near the end of the first half, before Moudi Najjar scored the winner soon after the restart, giving former Socceroo Mile Sterjovski his first win as an A-League coach.

Wellington keeper Oli Sail returned the favour during the second half, keeping out former teammate Uli Davila from the spot, but the Phoenix could not find an equaliser, falling to their fifth loss of the season and holding onto sixth place on a tightly packed table on goal difference.

Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay calls shots from the sideline
Phoenix coach Ufuk Talay calls shots from the sideline. Photo credit: Getty Images

They took an early lead, when a long ball from the back found Oskar Zawada beating the offside trap to put Bulgarian striker Bozhidar Kraev open in front of goal to score in the fourth minute.

Davila equalised, when he turned and leftfooted through Sail's legs, before Kurto's heroics proved a turning point in the contest.

Defender Daniel Arzani conceded the first penalty, when he excessively challenged Phoenix striker David Ball in the area, but Kurto dived left to cover Zawada's shot. In the aftermatch, Kraev was crudely felled by Kearyn Baccus and Wellington were awarded another ffrom the spot.

This time, Yan Sasse went to Kurto's right, but found the keeper diving to parry away.

Najjar was somewhat fortunate to score his gamewinner, after Jed Drew's close-range shot deflected off a defender and away from the diving Sail, who could not recover his feet quickly enough to stop the follow-up effort.

Najjar found the net again late in the match, but had his goal disallowed for a marginal foul in the lead-up, while the Phoenix were probably unlucky not to win another penalty in the dying seconds, after Oskar van Hattum was brought down in the area, but earned a yellow card for his protests.

"That game was lost when you can't convert two penalties, you create opportunities, but let these guys come back into the game, when I thought we had control," reflected coach Ufuk Talay.

"For me, it's disappointing - it's another game we've given up after taking a lead. We'll look back at it and see how we can fix it.

"I think the players have to learn to deal with expectation and the pressure of finishing off the game."

Wellington remain across the Tasman for a short turnaround, when they face Western United at Launceston on Friday.

Macarthur 2 (Davila & Najjar) Wellington Phoenix 1 (Kraev)