The Wellington Phoenix have fallen to their biggest defeat of the Isuzu UTE A-League season.
The Phoenix have been beaten 5-1 by Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium in Adelaide, despite having more shots than the Reds and outplaying the hosts for much of the match.
The Nix gifted the hosts the opening goal of the game and trailed 2-0 at halftime after conceding the second from a corner.
Adelaide scored their third early in the second half from another set piece before Wellington captain Alex Rufer pulled a goal back from the penalty spot in the 54th minute.
The Reds shut the door on the Phoenix midway little over a quarter of an hour later, scoring two further goals as the Nix pushed for their second.
Head coach Ufuk Talay was left to rue a lack of cutting edge from his side in front of goal.
“I thought we were in control of the game up until that point (Adelaide’s first goal),” Talay told media post-game. “I thought that was the first attack that they really had and we scored an own goal.
“Conceding two set pieces doesn’t help, but overall I thought we played well. We played straight through them at times and we created opportunities.
“Did we have opportunities to score? Definitely we did. Were we clinical as they were? We weren’t tonight and that’s why the result is the way it is.”
Both Kosta Barbarouses and Yan Sasse were denied by the woodwork, with Barbarouses’ miss particularly costly as it would have made it 2-1.
“It’s about taking those chances and being clinical in front of goal. The moments we get into those areas we need to be ruthless and punish teams and tonight we didn’t.
“Conceding the goals the way we did, especially the third one straight after halftime with another set piece from a corner, is disappointing and it’s hard to get yourself back into the game especially away from home against Adelaide.”
Ufuk Talay made just the one enforced change to his starting XI, with Barbarouses replacing Oskar Zawada, who remained in Wellington to await the birth of his first child. All Whites midfielder Clayton Lewis and young fullback Sam Sutton were named amongst the substitutes after recovering from injuries.
The Phoenix started the better of the two sides and Sasse had the first shot in just the third minute of the match. His strike from 25 yards out was hit with power, but it rose over Adelaide’s goal.
Reds fullback Ryan Kitto flashed a shot narrowly wide of Oli Sail’s left-hand post eight minutes later, but it was the only time the hosts threatened Wellington’s box in the opening quarter of an hour.
The Nix gave Adelaide the lead in the 16th minute, when Wootton chested a Zach Clough cross past Sail from a few yards out.
Wellington found themselves two goals down midway through the first-half, when Luka Jovanovic tapped home from a couple of yards out after the Phoenix weren’t able to deal with a dangerous Craig Goodwin free-kick. It was the first time the Reds had any touches in the Nix penalty area.
The Phoenix dominated the rest of the half.
Joe Gauci made a great save to deny Sasse from the penalty spot in the 35th minute, after Lucas Mauragis picked out the Brazilian in the Adelaide box.
Sasse called the Reds’ ‘keeper into action again moments later, with Gauci making a comfortable save at his near post. Bozhidar Kraev headed the resulting corner across goal.
Barbarouses should have pulled a goal back for the Nix a couple of minutes before halftime. The veteran forward did well to rob Gauci of possession in the Adelaide box, but his shot hit the far post and rebounded away from Kraev, who was following up.
Despite Wellington’s dominance Adelaide could have led 3-0 at halftime, with Sail making a sharp save to deny Kitto in the fourth minute of time added on.
Kraev came close to halving the deficit three minutes into the second half, but he saw his deflected shot narrowly miss Gauci’s left-hand post.
Instead, the Phoenix soon found themselves 3-nil down. Reds defender Lachlan Barr headed home a Goodwin corner from six yards out that Sail could do nothing about.
The three goal advantage was short-lived with Sasse earning the Nix a penalty moments later. Alex Rufer stepped up to the spot and sent Gauci the wrong way to give Wellington a lifeline.
Substitute Hiroshi Ibusuki made it 4-1 shortly after the hour mark, little over a minute after coming off the bench. The Japanese striker stroked home a first-time shot from eight yards out after good interplay from Goodwin and Louis D’Arrigo.
The game opened up over the final half an hour with the Phoenix searched for a way back into the match.
Exciting young Adelaide forward Nestory Irankunda should have scored the hosts’ fifth in the 70th minute when he was slipped through one-on-one with Sail. He managed to round the Nix ‘keeper but then sliced his shot wide of goal.
Shortly after Goodwin made no mistake of his opening to put the Reds up by four goals. The Socceroos forward showing great composure in the box before picking out the far corner of Wellington’s goal.
Sasse came within inches of a quick response, rattling the far post of Adelaide’s goal after a great run and left-wing cross from Kraev.
The Bulgarian also forced Gauci to make a smart save down low to his right in the 77th minute.
It was to be the last of the goalscoring opportunities for the Phoenix, who were unable to make the scoreline a fairer reflection of the match.
The Nix remain fifth on the A-League ladder, while Adelaide United have strengthened their hold on second place and are now just three points behind Melbourne City.
The A-League takes a week off for international football, with the Wellington Phoenix to resume their season against Melbourne Victory at Sky Stadium on Saturday, April 1.
Wellington Phoenix: 20. Oli SAIL (gk), 4. Scott WOOTTON, 5. Steven UGARKOVIC (13. Nicholas PENNINGTON 87th), 6. Tim PAYNE, 7. Kosta BARBAROUSES (23. Clayton LEWIS 63rd), 10. David BALL, 11. Bozhidar KRAEV (8. Ben OLD 87th), 12. Lucas MAURAGIS (19. Sam SUTTON 63rd), 14. Alex RUFER (c) (24. Oskar VAN HATTUM 67th), 17. Callan ELLIOT, 31. Yan SASSE.
Unused substitutes: 40. Alex PAULSEN (gk), 21. Joshua LAWS.
Adelaide United: 48. Joe GAUCI (gk), 4. Nicholas ANSELL (41. Alexandar POPOVIC 60th), 6. Louis D’ARRIGO (37. Jonny YULL 87th), 7. Ryan KITTO, 8. ISAIAS, 10. Zach CLOUGH (66. Nestory IRANKUNDA 68th), 11. Craig GOODWIN (c), 13. Lachlan BARR, 18. Jay BARNETT (55. Ethan ALAGICH 68th), 21. Javi LOPEZ, 35. Luka JOVANOVIC (9. Hiroshi IBUSUKI 60th).
Unused substitutes: 1. James DELIANOV (gk), 36. Panasha MADANHA.
4. Scott WOOTTON (Wellington Phoenix) – 16th og
35. Luka JOVANOVIC (Adelaide United) – 23rd
13. Lachlan BARR (Adelaide United) – 51st
14. Alex RUFER (Wellington Phoenix) – 54th pen
9. Hiroshi IBUSUKI (Adelaide United) – 62nd
11. Craig GOODWIN (Adelaide United) – 71st
12. Lucas MAURAGIS (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 23rd
17. Callan ELLIOT (Wellington Phoenix) – yellow – 33rd
13. Lachlan BARR (Adelaide United) – yellow – 81st