Adelaide United have reached the next stage of the A-League finals with a hardfought and absorbing 1-0 win over Wellington Phoenix tonight. In extremely tough conditions caused by persistent Adelaide rain, the Phoenix had the better of the chances but could not convert as the Reds hit the lead in the 70th minute through skipper Travis Dodd.
It was just Adelaide's third win in 12 finals appearances, putting them into the minor semi-final next weekend where host the winner of the Gold Coast United v Melbourne Victory match which is played at Skilled Park on Sunday.
Venue: Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide Crowd: 10,285 Referee: Jarred Gillett Yellow cards:AU - Cameron Watson 23', Marcos Flores 37' WP - Manny Muscat 4', Nick Ward 29'
There was plenty of rain around for the first final of the 2010/11 season but it didn't stop the Adelaide fans from coming out to support their local side although it did cause a slow start to the match with neither side troubling the opposing keeper until Manny Muscat took a speculative shot from outside the area in the 10th minute which Reds keeper Eugene Galekovic held onto.
Wellington were stepping up onto Adelaide and had a lot more possession in the early stages as the home side required Galekovic to pull off a top save in the 21st minute when Nick Ward's header was directed at the top corner in a close call.
The Phoenix continued to make a nuisance of themselves as Adelaide struggled to provide anything in their attacking half and it needed something special from Reds midfielder Marcos Flores who took on the Phoenix defence just after the half-hour mark but slung his shot over the crossbar which was his side's first shot on goal.
Moments later, Sergio van Dijk got on the end of a Travis Dodd free-kick but his leaping header went wide as the rain started to come in sideways, causing even more difficulty for the players who were doing what they could but to no avail in the first 45 minutes.
The early stages of the second half was more a battle of attrition rather than a football match with plenty of errors creeping into proceedings but whenever Adelaide were able to hit the Phoenix on the counter-attack they looked extremely dangerous.
The up-tempo encounter in heavy conditions forced both coaches to make changes just after the hour-mark with Rini Coolen bringing on Mathew Leckie for the home side whilst Ricki Herbert entered Paul Ifill into the fray for the visitors for his first game back since injuring his leg on December 18.
GOAL The opening goal finally came with just over 20 minutes remaining when Flores won the ball in midfield to captain Dodd who played it off for van Dijk. The big Dutchman then played a perfectly weighted pass back into the path of Dodd who was well on-side and was able to advance into the box to tuck it under Danny Vukovic to make it 1-0 and give his side the ascendency despite being outplayed for most of the match.
Wellington caused some Adelaide heart flutters when Marco Rojas played a dangerous ball into the area which was very awkward for the Reds defence as the visitors chased the game as they continued to do for the remainder of proceedings but were unable to grab a leveler and had to settle with a sixth-place finish for the season.
AUEugene Galekovic (gk), Cameron Watson, Nigel Boogaard, Dario Bodrusic, Cassio, Adam Hughes, Francisco Usucar (Cornthwaite 85'), Travis Dodd, Marcos Flores (Pantelis 75'), Andy Slory (Leckie 62'), Sergio van Dijk
WPDanny Vukovic (gk), Jade North, Andrew Durante, Ben Sigmund, Tony Lochhead, Manny Muscat, Troy Hearfield (Greenacre 74'), Tim Brown, Nick Ward, Marco Rojas (Daniel 89'), Dylan Macallister (Ifill 62')
Subs - Reece Crowther (gk), Paul Ifill (62'), Chris Greenacre (74'), Daniel (89'), Vince Lia