Wellington Phoenix completed a stunning turnaround to beat in-form Adelaide United 2-1 and climb off the bottom of the Hyundai A-League ladder.
David Ball’s first Hyundai A-League goal and a penalty from Mexican playmaker Ulises Davila shredded the form book and halted the Reds’ four-match winning streak.
The home side had taken the lead in sensational fashion on 57 minutes when Nikola Mileusnic scored a wonder goal that will surely be in the Goal of the Season conversation.
That remarkable 25-yard strike rocked Ufuk Talay’s side, who had dominated the competition’s form team in a first half where goalkeeper Paul Izzo had kept the Reds in contention at Coopers Stadium.
A double half-time substitution from Gertjan Verbeek swung the game back towards the Reds but, after Mileusnic’s thunderbolt, Phoenix rallied to score two goals in four minutes to flip the script.
Davila’s winner came from a penalty, which was awarded after George Blackwood tripped Liberato Cacace and a VAR review upheld the decision, as the'Nix clinched their first win in the City of Churches in five years.
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The visitors fired the first warming shot inside 30 seconds when Rene Piscopo’s back-post header from Sotirio’s cross was pushed away by an alert Izzo. But, the Reds initially responded well when Michael Maria saw his 13th-minute header saved by Stefan Marinovic, before Steven Taylor and Tim Payne were forced to throw brave blocks to deny Mileusnic and James Troisi.
It was Phoenix that seized control and Sotirio was a constant threat. His 24th-minute header was saved, before Izzo denied the 24-year-old again from close range after Davila’s defence-splitting pass.
Verbeek’s side were left clinging on with the Nix spurning three chances within five minutes before half-time, as Ball was denied twice by Izzo and Mileusnic threw in a block to deflect Davila’s close-range strike to safety.
Kristian Opseth and George Blackwood were introduced at half-time, but the Reds started the second half in the same way as the first, almost gifting Nix a goal but Davila missed a gilt-edge chance, and Izzo was forced into another close-range save from the Mexican.
Mileusnic’s moment of magic almost came out of nowhere, but the lead lasted only 10 minutes when Ball swept home Sotirio’s delivery from close range to finally beat Izzo on 67 minutes.
Davila lashed in his third penalty goal of the season, and fifth in the Hyundai A-League on 74 minutes after Cacace was sent tumbling by Blackwood. Mileusnic lifted a late effort over the bar as Wellington held on to record back-to-back victories, and their first away win of the season.
Sotirio spurns golden chance to put Wellington in front
Wellington racked up 13 shots to Adelaide's four in the first half, but this opportunity for Sotirio was clearly their best.
The Reds backline was left stranded by Ulises Davila's defence-splitting ball and Sotirio had only Izzo to beat from close range.
The 24-year-old attacker took it first time and fortunately for Izzo, the home goalkeeper's back foot prevented the ball from reaching the back of Adelaide's net.
Sensational Mileusnic effort hands Adelaide the lead
Wellington Phoenix had thrown everything at the Reds, and then Mileusnic produced a moment of pure magic to tip the game in the home side's favour.
Riley McGree headed a long throw back in the direction of Mileusnic and the 26-year-old took the ball on his chest before unleashing a thunderous left-footed volley.
Marinovic threw himself across the Nix goalmouth at full-stretch, but there was no stopping a wonder strike that will surely be in the conversation for Hyundai A-League Goal of the Season.
Ball slammed Phoenix back level
Adelaide's lead lasted 10 minutes before David Ball struck his first Hyundai A-League goal to fire Wellington back into the game.
Alex Rufer turned the ball over the midfield and launch an attack, finding the fleet-footed Sotirio storming down Phoenix's right wing.
His low cross found the Englishman's cross-field run and Ball swept the ball goalwards from the penalty spot. It was not the cleanest of strikes but it was enough to finally beat Izzo.
Davila converts after VAR check confirms penalty
With Phoenix hitting their groove, Liberato Cacace surged into the Adelaide penalty box in the 69th minute and was sent tumbling by substitute George Blackwood.
A VAR check was held to make sure the contact between the pair was enough to impede Wellington's flying full-back, and the green light was given.
The Mexican stepped up from the spot and netted his third penalty of the season and his fifth Hyundai A-League goal.
Wellington Phoenix play host to Western Sydney Wanderers at Eden Park, Auckland, in Round 9. Kick-off on Saturday, 7 December is at 5pm AEDT.
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