It wasn't convincing, but Wellington Phoenix are on track to play A-League Men finals after a lucky 1-0 defeat of Western Sydney in Auckland.

Wellington Phoenix - Western Sydney Wanderers

  • Phoenix beat Wanderers 1-0 in the A-League on Sunday.
  • The match was held at Auckland's Eden Park in front of a crowd of 15,245.
  • Wellington are now fourth in the ladder, Western Sydney tenth.

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Ben Waine's first half tap-in put the injury-hit Nix back on the winners' list after they were belted 4-0 on their return to New Zealand last week.

Ufuk Talay's side were second best at Eden Park - where Wellington are yet to lose in nine outings - but hung tough at New Zealand's home of rugby.

The Wanderers missed a first-half penalty and rattled the crossbar twice in the second half but fell short of a deserved equaliser.

To the delight of the 15,245 Phoenix-heavy crowd, former Nix coach Mark Rudan was given a red card close to full time, the coach performing a sarcastic bow for the fans as he left the tunnel.

"Wrong of me. I put my hands up ... I apologise for that," he said of his dissent.

"I wasn't happy with the referee's performance. He's a very inexperienced campaigner."

Rudan's side stay 10th and face a fifth straight campaign without finals, eight points off the top six with just four matches to play.

However, Wellington jump up to fourth on the table, raising the prospect of home finals to Talay's delight.

"We've got an exceptional group. A group with a lot of resilience," he said.

"Eden Park has been good to us, results-wise. Even the posts have been good to us.

"We still have three games to go and need to pick up points but this was a massive game for us today ... if we get another win, we're in a good spot."

Keanu Baccus made his presence felt early, sliding through David Ball with a late and ugly tackle, receiving a caution, and headbutting Nicholas Pennington in the nose as he attempted to win a header.

The Phoenix survived the Baccus onslaught and a slippery pitch to take the lead on 22 minutes.

Players lost their feet on the wet rugby pitch all afternoon, but not Ball.

The Englishman danced through the Wanderers defence, combining with Reno Piscopo before crossing for Waine - 12 years his junior - to tap in.

The assist was a fair reward for Ball, who wears a moonboot in between games due to a big toe injury, and who wore Baccus' horror challenge on his ankle.

The Wanderers also fell foul of the Auckland surface, missing a penalty after Pennington handled a goal-bound shot.

Steven Ugarkovic was red faced when he slipped as he took the spot kick, spraying his effort embarrassingly wide.

Still, Rudan's side had the run of the game and enough chances to get back on terms.

Substitute Keijiro Ogawa spooned Adama Traore's cutback around the hour mark, and John Koutroumbis fired a deflected effort onto the bar shortly after.

As the minutes ticked down, Ramy Najjarine's header also rattled the woodwork before bouncing down and just clear of Oli Sail's goal - a sign it wasn't the Wanderers' day.


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