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Merrick finds positives despite loss

NZ NewswireNZ Newswire 2/04/2016 Cathy Walshe

It was a struggle, but Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick still managed to extract some positive spin from his team's 4-1 defeat by Melbourne Victory.

Ninth on the A-League laddder, Wellington were ripped apart by sixth-ranked Victory on Saturday at Westpac Stadium.

Next season's signings Kosta Barbarouses and Gui Finkler were merciless in highlighting their future teammates' shortcomings.

"The only positive in the whole thing was that the two players that ripped us apart are our players next year - Finkler and Barbarouses," Merrick said.

"Barbarouses isolates players one on one, he's got the speed and technical dribbling ability to beat any player in the league.

"He sets up goals and he scores goals."

Merrick said Finkler's work rate and ability to run the attacking midfield would be a huge asset for Wellington.

"Every first touch seems to take him into space - he rarely gets tackled because of his first touch.

"His vision and quality of passing, through accuracy and the right weighting on the ball, is the best in the league."

Merrick recently secured Barbarouses for three years and Finkler for two, and suspects those signings may be behind Victory coach Kevin Muscat's missing full-time handshake.

"I suspect the opposition coach didn't shake hands with me because I've taken two of his players, if not two of his best players."

Muscat brushed off his omission of the customary post-match courtesies.

"I needed to get to the bathroom, and I wanted to get to Bes (Besart Berisha), so I came straight off."

Victory took a 2-0 into halftime through goals from Berisha and Oliver Bozanic.

Berisha's red card 10 minutes before halftime, after the Albanian striker lashed out at Andrew Durante, gave Wellington a glimmer of hope.

But Albert Riera's second yellow 10 minutes into the second spell evened things up, Barbarouses extending Victory's to 3-0 in the 56th minute.

Wellington managed a late consolation goal to Roly Bonevacia, and could have closed the gap further but for Michael McGlinchey's 86th minute penalty miss before George Howard stoppage-time finish gave Melbourne the last say.

Merrick was, once again, left ruing squandered chances.

"A goal lifts you. We scored one, then we got a penalty - we should have scored that, and it would have been a really exciting last eight minutes.

"But the penalty went wayward, as has our season, and that sort of summed us up."

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