Adelaide has never been a happy hunting ground for the Wellington Phoenix and last night was no exception as they were beaten 3-1 by second-placed United.
Earlier this season there was controversy over defender Ben Sigmund being shown a red card, and last night the Phoenix had what arguably was a goal ruled out for offside.
That came within minutes of Adelaide taking the lead through Marcelo Carrusca in the 20th minute with a bizarre goal direct from a free-kick and would have put the Phoenix back on terms.
Instead the visitors found themselves two goals down in the 25th minute, again from the boot of Carrusca thanks to some poor defending.
Things got worse right on half time when Fabio Ferreira added a third, and coach Ricki Herbert-s luck didn-t improve during the break when captain and defender Andrew Durante had to be replaced by midfielder Alex Smith because of a calf strain.
Herbert went for broke early in the second spell by replacing experienced strikers Paul Ifill and Stein Huysegems with teenager Tyler Boyd and Solomon Islands international Benji Totori.
The extra pace of the pair, along with that of Louis Fenton, quickly paid dividends and for long periods the Phoenix took control of the game and by the final whistle their goal attempts were double those of the home side.
Unfortunately only one found the net, an 81st minute strike by Spanish midfielder Dani Sanchez who made an impressive return from a long-term injury.
In the last minute the Phoenix were awarded a penalty but United goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic made a brilliant double save to keep out Boyd-s spot kick.
While disappointed with the result Herbert took solace from the second- half performance, especially the contribution of Boyd and Fenton.
“The young ones did well and I thought we were the better side in the second half,” Herbert said.
“I know people will say they (Adelaide) eased off at 3-0 up but we had to do something in the second half and we forced the pace. We missed a penalty and Louis missed an open goal.”
Herbert had no regrets about telling Boyd to take the last-minute penalty.
“He is a 17-year-old kid and this will toughen him up a bit. I just wanted to try and get him a goal,” he said.
“We can take a few positives from the game. The character in the second half was excellent.
“I was again impressed by the players we threw on. Boyd and Totori are very quick players, as is Fenton, and pace in the front third of the pitch is important in this league.”
The Phoenix will be hoping leading scorer Jeremy Brockie, who missed the game with a hamstring strain, is fit for Saturday-s game against league leaders Central Coast Mariners and that Durante-s calf injury isn-t serious.