A-League: Brisbane Roar beaten by Wellington Phoenix

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Brisbane Roar’s fading hopes of playing finals football took another blow on Sunday when they were beaten 1-0 by A-League leaders Wellington Phoenix.

Having taken the lead early through Bulgarian striker Bozhidar Kraev, the Phoenix held on despite having captain Alex Rufer sent off in the closing stages of the contest at Sky Stadium.

While the Phoenix opened up a six-point advantage at the top of the ladder, the Roar could be as many as eight points adrift of the top six after the round concludes with Monday’s battle between Macarthur FC and Western Sydney.

Roar skipper Tom Aldred, who was hoping to celebrate his 100th A-League appearance with a win, was left to lament a “frustrating” 90 minutes as his side failed to find the back of the net despite creating some good chances.

“The performance was good, but the door wouldn’t open,” Aldred told Sky Sports.

“We tried, we had opportunities, shots on target, everything to score goals.

“If we equalise it changes the game and we’re in the ascendancy but it wasn’t to be … a really frustrating day.”

The Roar also paid the price for a sloppy start, with the Phoenix going ahead in just the second minute.

Wellington right-back Sam Sutton was the provider, crossing the ball into the path of Kraev, who took advantage of some poor marking from the Brisbane defence to score for the first time in seven matches.

The Roar should have equalised two minutes later but Nikola Mileusnic wasted a golden opportunity, failing to hit the target with only goalkeeper Alex Paulsen to beat.

Paulsen was needed to keep his side ahead in the 20th minute with a save to deny Roar attacking weapon Keegan Jelacic equalising.

The Phoenix custodian was called into action soon after to parry a shot from Brisbane’s French playmaker Florin Berenguer to safety.

Both sides had good chances in the second half, with former Roar star Kosta Barbarouses believing he had doubled the Phoenix’s advantage in the 59th minute after getting the better of Brisbane defender Kai Trewin and firing the ball past keeper Macklin Freke.

However, the New Zealand international attacker was correctly ruled off-side, with the VAR confirming the assistant referee’s decision to raise his flag.

Rufer sees red

Tempers flared when Phoenix skipper Rufer was sent off in the 82nd minute for standing on the hamstring of the fallen Henry Hore after playing the ball off the back of the Brisbane midfielder’s leg.

Referee Tim Danaskos initially showed Rufer a yellow card, but on the advice of the VAR, reviewed footage of the incident.

After watching it several times, Danaskos changed his decision, and showed Rufer a straight red card.

Players from both sides had to be separated, with Rufer furious, believing Hore had exaggerated the contact that had been made.

Aldred’s anguish

Roar skipper Aldred copped a boot to the face late in the first half from Phoenix forward David Ball as he lunged in to head the ball away.

With Aldred’s face bloodied, Ball faced a nervous wait after VAR checked whether his punishment for the high boot should be upgraded from its initial yellow card sanction to a red card.

However, the Englishman breathed a sigh of relief, with his booking deemed sufficient for the foul.    

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