On a night that was all about landmarks Wellington Phoenix have come up short in front of an improved crowd for skipper Andrew Durante in his 278th Hyundai A-League appearance as visitors Adelaide United escaped with all three points on Saturday night.
In-form striker Roy Krishna was a late scratching with hamstring tightness adding to a backline shorn of Daniel Mullen and Dylan Fox through injury and Marco Rossi from suspension.
And yet the Phoenix XI that took the pitch, befitting a team coming off seven points from their last three matches, started brighter against an Adelaide side that appeared happy to absorb pressure early on.
After only 22 seconds Andrija Kaludjerović almost found himself through but captain for the night Jordan Elsey forced him wide at the expense of a corner.
Durante was lurking with intent from set pieces and his second minute flick on almost found the Serbian sharpshooter but for a crucial far post intervention from Ersan Gulum.
It came at a further price as the no-nonsense centre half left Kaludjerović limping after a clash of boots, that had the Phoenix top goalscorer hobbling for much of the half.
In the 19th minute Phoenix almost took the lead after a half-clearance from a corner was recycled by Adam Parkhouse, he picked out Tom Doyle whose thumping cross-goal header was nearly turned home by an Adelaide defender.
But with their first meaningful attack it was the visitors who took the lead. A long ball was flicked in the path of George Blackwood who held off the attention of Goran Paracki to fire home past Lewis Italiano in the 32nd minute.
Seven minutes later it was Parkhouse, deputising for Krishna, who almost found the equaliser. Quick thinking from Scott Galloway put the flying winger through, and he cut inside expertly but his curling effort flew just inches over Paul Izzo’s crossbar.
1-0 to the visitors at the break.
It was cat-and-mouse again for the opening of the second half as neither side managed to unlock the opposing defence, Blackwood missing a decent chance in the 54th minute before Burns had the United backline backpedalling.
Sarpreet Singh came on for the injured Kaludjerović and the injection of fresh legs lead to some of the best minutes for the Phoenix.
Ljujic drove a freekick just wide of Izzo’s post before Matt Ridenton went a whisker away from his first of the season with a shot from an acute angle skimming off the crossbar with Izzo beaten.
With 65 minutes gone Phoenix earned four consecutive corners as the home side really began to ratchet the pressure but as in the first half, with their first meaningful effort Adelaide almost struck a counter-punch as Gulum headed narrowly wide.
But every time Phoenix looked to build tempo the visitors found a way to defuse momentum as the warmer than usual conditions sapped the pace from the contest.
Michael McGlinchey fired a well-struck shot at Izzo with five minutes of regulation time to go, before substitute Alex Rufer had a golden opportunity in added time but wasn’t able to keep his shot on target.
Phoenix with a challenge to retain their positive start to 2018 as they go on the road to Sydney two weeks in a row.
Wellington Phoenix 0-1 Adelaide United (Blackwood 32’)
Italiano (gk); Galloway (Rufer 81’), Durante, Paracki, Doyle; Ridenton; McGlinchey, Ljujic, Parkhouse (Rogerson 90’), Burns; Kaludjerovic (Singh 58’)
Izzo (gk); Strain, Elsey, Gulum, Garuccio; Adlung, Konstandopoulos, O’Doherty (Regan 90+4’), Kitto, Mileusnic (Ochieng 74’); Blackwood (Stamatelopoulos 90+2’)