A late goal from exciting youngster James Brown and a quality brace from Bruce Djite secured United’s first ever win over Ricki Herbet’s men and extends their unbeaten run to five matches.
Brown sealed the points in an absorbing contest with a well-placed header nine minutes from time, but the match will be remembered for a pair of top-end strikes from Djite, making it three goals in two games for the powerful forward.
Both teams came out of the blocks quickly and the match opened with a tempo that suggested an open, attacking encounter was to follow, United finding their crisp passing game from the first whistle.
Within five minutes Gold Coast had the lead with a goal of true quality. Olyroo Tahj Minniecon was the architect with his deft turn and subsequent pinpoint pass finding Djite on the edge of the box.
Djite’s first touch was immaculate and made the space for the unerring finish that followed, the ball whistling past Danny Vukovic in the Phoenix goal.
But United’s lead was short-lived. Just minutes after having a goal controversially disallowed for offside Wellington equalised when Kristian Rees handled in the box. Paul Ifill made no mistake from the penalty spot for the visitors, sending Glen Moss the wrong way and levelling the scores.
Djite almost doubled his tally seven minutes before the break after another quality move opened up the Wellington defence. Michael Thwaite’s laser-guided 50-metre through ball set Jason Culina free and the United skipper’s early cross was met by the onrushing Djite, but the big striker couldn’t force the ball home.
With both sides enjoying an even share of the match, Miron Bleiberg injected some additional attacking thrust into his team within ten minutes of the restart, bringing on James Brown for defender Kristian Rees.
Brown almost unlocked the visitor’s defence with a silky run down the right before setting up Caravella for a strike at goal, then at the other end Ifill smashed a free-kick into a resolute United defensive wall.
The pressure paid off for the home side in the 70th minute when another exquisite goal restored United’s advantage, and it was Brown who engineered the chance.
Dazzling his marker with a deft touch, Brown knocked the ball into enough space for Steve Pantelidis to find Djite at the near post. Still with a lot to do, Djite produced a sublime back-heeled strike to fox Vukovic and make it 2-1.
Man of the moment Brown made the game safe when he nodded home the third goal seven minutes from time. Jason Culina’s free-kick was headed back across goal by Djite and Brown found the space to steer the ball into the corner of the net.