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Melbourne Heart 0 Wellington Phoenix 1
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Wasteful Melbourne Heart downed by Wellington Phoenix

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If you don't take any of the numerous chances you create and then concede a late goal to a counter-attack then you only have yourself to blame.

It's been the story of Melbourne Heart's season, and it was groundhog day at AAMI Park as the league's cellar dwellers crashed to another loss, this time against Wellington Phoenix.

Ernie Merrick's side, winless itself until just before Christmas, made it two victories on the trot, with a 75th-minute goal from Stein Huysegems enough to give the visitors a 1-0 triumph.

With Heart set to be sold to a new consortium, beleaguered coach John Aloisi's future will be under even more intense scrutiny after yet another pointless evening.

The pressure to make a change mounts with each unsuccessful outing, although the coach has consistently declared that he will not quit.

The boos from the 6486-strong crowd when referee Strebre Delovski brought this game to an end might not have been seasonal, but they told their own story.


Heart has now played 12 matches this season and not won once, its failure to take its opportunities allied to a defensive frailty at crucial moments ensuring this nightmare season continues.

With its next two matches away from home, at champions Central Coast and then in Perth, it would take a bold gambler to suggest it will break its duck any time soon.

Wellington should have put itself in front after less than 10 minutes when Kiwi international Jeremy Brockie was played through by a long ball and left with only Andrew Redmayne in the Heart goal to beat.

He fluffed his lines - a common failing in the A-League this season - and dragged a shot wide of the post. Perhaps no one should have been that surprised. Brockie has form in this regard this season, having missed a number of chances in earlier games.

Still, he was only setting the tone for what was to come later in the half as both sides, rooted at the foot of the table for much of the season, snatched - and subsequently failed - to take advantage of opportunities that came their way.

Carlos Hernandez came closest to giving the visitors the early lead only for his shot to strike the post.

But if anything Heart forward David Williams was guilty of an even more culpable miss than Brockie's some 10 minutes later when he had a glorious chance to break the deadlock.

Jason Hoffman's pass found Michael Mifsud, who raced in on goal as Phoenix goalkeeper Glen Moss advanced. Mifsud squared the ball to Williams, who somehow managed to miss the gaping goal completely.

It summed up so much of the season for a Heart side that usually gets punished more heavily. But Wellington is a team that shares many of the red and white's failings, so it was hardly surprising that the teams went to the interval goalless, the respective coaches faced with the prospect of finding a way to galvanise their teams into being more ruthless in front of goal.

Before the interval, Williams went close from another Hoffman cross - the full-back getting forward to good effect down the right - only to be denied by a Moss save with his legs at the near post.

Nick Kalmar drove over the bar, as did Massimo Murdocca, while at the other end Hernandez continued to try his luck from distance with a couple of sighters.

One wit in the crowd observed that it was like watching two nervous teenagers out on a first date together, both suffused with desire but neither having the technique to take the game beyond the lead-up moves.

No one could question the effort and resolve of either side, but it was the same old story of poor execution of the final ball or shot.

Brockie drove over early in the second half while Aziz Behich showed plenty of skill to work an opening in the Phoenix penalty area but his shot lacked the power to trouble Moss.

Behich again caused problems just before the hour when he worked the ball into the area and found Mifsud: his effort was denied, the ball spinning out to Williams but his shot was deflected over by Wellington captain Andrew Durante.

Harry Kewell's effort from wide on the right flashed just past the post, and a familiar feeling gripped the small crowd - that Heart, having failed to capitalise on its chances, were almost doomed to fall victim to a sucker punch from the visitors.

And that's exactly what happened with 15 minutes to go, when substitute Tyler Boyd skipped past Behich down the right and delivered a low cross that Huysegems, left with too much space, turned past Redmayne.

It was a familiar story for the Heart faithful, but for Wellington it was a perfect end to a year that has been full of upheaval. Two wins on the spin for Phoenix will breed confidence they can regain contact with the finals race - something that looked unlikely before Christmas.