Frustrated Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce says his players need to emulate the ability of A-League powerhouse Sydney FC to close out games if they're to avoid an early exit from the finals.
City has had a lot to smile about this season after finishing in third spot - the best regular-season finish in its history - and qualifying for the Asian Champions League.
But it slipped up on Saturday night in the final regular-season game when it lost 2-1 to a Wellington side desperate to climb off the bottom of the ladder.
Phoenix 19-year-old Sarpreet Singh led his to victory with two deft touches and strikes but Joyce instead viewed the goals as coming from City turnovers and a "lack of discipline".
He said lapses in concentration had led City to concede similar goals all year and he could not pretend it would simply go away next Friday.
City instead needed to emulate the steely mindset of champion sides such as Sydney FC, which ended the regular season top of the table at least 14 points clear of its nearest rival.
"(Sydney) don't make mistakes like that. They don't switch off like that," he said.
"If we are trying to look at what the best do and be like that or better than that, you can't make excuses on nights like tonight."
City now wait on the outcome of Sunday's matches to see who they face in the first week of the finals out of Western Sydney, Brisbane or Perth.
They will likely to be boosted in that match by the return of captain Michael Jakobsen.
The Dane sat out Saturday's clash against the Phoenix to rest a sore thigh but Joyce said the injury wasn't serious and Jakobsen would likely have played had City not already stitched up third place.