Red-hot Wellington Phoenix have taken advantage of defensive lapses from Adelaide United to record a thrilling 2-1 triumph over the Reds at Hindmarsh Stadium.
Red-hot Wellington Phoenix have taken advantage of some sloppy defensive lapses from Adelaide United to record a thrilling come-from-behind 2-1 triumph over the Reds at Hindmarsh Stadium on Friday night.
The victory saw the Phoenix further strengthen their hold on second position and extended United's winless spell to six weeks.
Bruce Djite opened proceedings for the fast-starting hosts and the Reds, who held sway for prolonged periods of the second half, had plenty of chances.
But two costly errors in defence was all it took for the visitors to strike twice, through Tim Brown, shortly after Djite's opener, and Dani Sanchez late in the first half.
Adelaide started a captivating first half in positive fashion when Cameron Watson, in the opening minute, went for a run in space down the right wing before spraying his wide-open cross over the bar.
The aggressive Reds opened with energy and purpose and it didn't take long before they were rewarded when Djite picked up the crumbs after Dario Vidosic was dispossessed inside the penalty area and found the bottom right-hand corner of the net in the 10th minute.
Almost immediately from the kick-off, Djite was primed to notch an early brace before Wellington's desperate goal-line clearance ended the flurry momentarily.
Moments later, United very nearly made it two goals in the space of barely 60 seconds when Vidosic curled a free kick from the left of the box, which Djite almost got on the end of, before Cassio hit it past Phoenix gloveman Mark Paston and banged it into the right post.
The visitors' vaunted defence was under siege as Adelaide played some of their most inspired football for the season.
Wellington withstood the onslaught before equalising in the 13th minute courtesy of some sloppy defensive work from the home side.
Veteran Paul Ifill gathered a lobbed through ball and dished a clever left-foot pass to Brown who was given far too much latitude and slotted it from close range past wrong-footed Reds custodian Eugene Galekovic.
Adelaide tried to make swift amends when Nigel Boogaard's nod sailed over the top five minutes later, before another chance for United to skip ahead went begging when Vidosic's 21st minute hit from the left was comfortably cleared by Chris Greenacre.
On the advance, Djite chipped a nice cross in the 28th minute which Sergio van Dijk was fractionally too far forward to reel in, while Ian Ramsay's close-range deflection from his non-preferred right boot in the 32nd minute just missed to the right.
While Adelaide were creating more opportunities, Phoenix were holding sway in the middle overall and were unrushed in repelling the Reds' attacks.
Osama Malik copped the night's first yellow card in the 37th minute after he blatantly grabbed Manny Muscat from behind as the Phoenix right back was bursting forward.
On the ensuing set piece, the Reds failed to adequately clear and they paid the ultimate price when Alex Smith's cross found Sanchez, who gave Wellington the lead with a clever, clipped header.
Brazilian left-back Cassio, back playing his first game in three months after sustaining a serious foot injury, almost equalised in the 53rd minute when he thumped a free kick from 30 metres out that forced Paston into a desperate dive after the ball that brushed Smith on the way.
United bossed the match for much of the second half and picked up a heap of possession, but battled to make a decent impression.
Against the flow at the 65-minute mark, Ifill single-handedly cut inside from the right and jagged one that fractionally went over the top.
Eight minutes later, it was Ifill again in the thick of it as the Barbadian almost put the Reds to bed when, after a nice run, his smashed volley from long range beat Galekovic all ends up before crashing into the crossbar.
Adelaide regrouped but were found wanting when Djite's 76th-minute ball to the near post for Caravella ended with the United substite stumbling to the turf.
Ben Sigmund's crude challenge on Djite, streaming towards goal soon after, saw the experienced Kiwi earn a yellow although the parochial home crowd were demanding a red card.
The Hindmarsh faithful had nothing to complain about in the 84th minute when Ifill, again looking ever-dangerous, was denied a blatant penalty when he was pulled down from behind by Galekovic inside the box.
Djite had a late opportunity to salvage an 11th-hour recovery deep into extra time, but his shot, which beat Paston, sailed across the face.
Adelaide United 1 (Djite 10) Wellington Phoenix 2 (Brown 13, Sanchez 38) @ Hindmarsh Stadium. Crowd: 8425