TEN-MAN Adelaide United held on for a vital 2-1 victory over a Wellington Phoenix spurred on by 18,345 fans at Westpac Stadium.
United marquee player Paul Agostino scored his first Hyundai A-League goal since returning from Germany with a diving header after 9 minutes.
But Wellington earned themselves a penalty after being denied a clear shout moments earlier. Brazilian Daniel slotted home emphatically sending the Yellow Fever fans into a frenzy.
Despite throwing everything at the depleted Reds, Phoenix were unable to take the lead and were made to pay after Lucas Pantelis restored United’s lead on 79 minutes.
Playing in front a record crowd for a club game in New Zealand and with David Beckham’s LA Galaxy in attendance, Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert had an almost full strength line up despite missing captain Ross Aloisi.
Adelaide by contrast were missing several key players and fielding their most inexperienced side since the club’s inception.
Jonas Salley was also left in South Australia due to his Ivory Coast passport having expired even though the club tried to speed through a fresh application via the French embassy in Canberra.
With both teams looking for a much needed win, the game got off to a somewhat cagey first five minutes however it wasn’t long before match came to life as the Reds took an early lead in the 9th minute.
Lucas Pantelis was allowed space and time on the left to measure a pinpoint cross to Agostino who found the net unmarked with a diving header.
It sparked United into life as a minute later Brazilian Diego fired in a low shot from the edge of the area but Phoenix keeper Glenn Moss got down to save well.
Travis Dodd was causing problems for former Red Kristian Rees on the left wing and on 12 minutes got around his man before cutting back to Agostino who shot wide.
Wellington survived the onslaught to get forward and began to play the ball around as United got numbers behind the ball.
Felipe forced Adelaide keeper Eugene Galekovic into a save from a trademark free kick but the Reds shot stopper was able to save comfortably.
The game then settled down as both sides were unable to carve out any clear cut chances until United’s Travis Dodd charged down a back pass to Moss.
Had the Reds midfielder stayed on his feet he surely would have scored but Moss was able to recover before he found his feet.
That seemed to give Wellington the kick they needed as toward the end of the first half Phoenix began to build momentum in their best spell of the opening 45.
On the edge of the Adelaide area the ball was played into Daniel and with one deft back heel, gave Tim Brown time to avoid the defence, steady himself and shoot forcing Galekovic into a finger tip save.
Just one minute later Daniel had the ball in the net from a corner but the referee had already blown the whistle for a foul on Kristian Sarkies after a tussle with Brown.
The crowd were incensed and roared their team on in the closing stages of the half as Adelaide’s inexperienced defence looked shaky.
Wellington came out for the jugular in the second half pinning United back in their own defensive third applying wave after wave of pressure.
Felipe had an early chance on a tight angle inside the box but could only fire his shot wide into the side netting.
Diego earned himself a yellow card for a foul on the edge of the area before Pantelis was also carded for encroaching on the ensuing free kick.
From the re-take Galekovic had to recover after a slight fumble with Phoenix players rushing in on the Reds gloves-man.
A minute later Wellington had a penalty claim waved away to chagrin of the home players when Felipe had cut inside on the right before being clipped by Travis Dodd. The Brazilian fell theatrically but replays suggested it was a cast iron spot kick.
Ricki Herbert then rolled the dice throwing on Vaughn Coveny and playing three up front. The move seemed to pay off as the former All White caused havoc for the Reds defence.
Vince Lia shot wide from a volley after a cross header was palmed away by Galekovic but one minute later in the 68th, Phoenix got their just reward.
Milan Susak received a second yellow for a rash challenge on Coveny just inside the box and this time the referee pointed straight to the spot.
Daniel stepped up to score high into the top left corner pulling the Phoenix level at 1-1.
On 72 minutes the Phoenix had another penalty claim waved away as United looked desperate to just hold on to a point.
The party tricks were coming out as Daniel, confident after scoring his equaliser, turned on the style before crossing to Coveny who sent a free header wide.
Adelaide were barely in the game trying to hit on the counter but never looked like scoring until the 79th when a long ball was played out to Nathan Burns on the left.
The Olyroo striker ran at the Phoenix defence and played in a ball to Agostino in the 18 yard box.
With a lighting quick one touch pass, United’s marquee man played the ball into the path of Pantelis who toe poked home from close range for 2-1.
That goal seemed to take wind out the Wellington sails as Adelaide played intelligently slowing the pace of the game and earning vital decisions.
Phoenix weren’t able to come at United as vigorously however they carved out a late chance from an Ahmed Elrich cross but Coveny again glanced his header wide.
Deep into injury time Wellington had a header cleared virtually off the line from a Daniel corner but Adelaide saw the ball away to hold onto a vital three points and their first win since defeating the Phoenix back in Round 10.
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