Wellington Phoenix have made certain their finals position for the 2010/11 season with a narrow 1-0 win over Adelaide United tonight in the club's 100th A-League match. Chris Greenacre's 34th minute header from a stunning Marco Rojas cross proved the difference as Ricki Herbert's men moved four points clear of seventh-placed Melbourne Heart to qualify for the playoffs for the second year running.
It was the first-ever time Wellington had defeated Adelaide in Adelaide in six attempts, consigning the home side to their second loss on the trot at Hindmarsh Stadium and ending their chances of a top-two finish.
Venue: Hindmarsh Stadium, Adelaide Crowd: approx. 10,000 Referee: Matthew Breeze Yellow cards:AU - nil WP - Tim Brown 42', Troy Hearfield 65', Andrew Durante 81'
The Phoenix had two great scoring opportunities inside the opening two minutes when Chris Greenacre's first shot had to be cleared off the line by Nigel Boogaard before he got a second chance from a similar angle which was well stopped by Eugene Galekovic.
After a frenetic beginning, the contest turned into a bit of an arm wrestle before Adelaide almost opened up the Phoenix defence in the 15th minute when Paul Reid made a great run, cutting back for Iain Ramsay. His shot was deflected into the path of skipper Travis Dodd but he bobbled his attempt wide in what was a huge let off for the visitors.
Less than three minutes later, Sergio van Dijk let rip with a shot from outside the area which stung the palms of Phoenix keeper Danny Vukovic as the Reds kicked into gear.
Wellington youngster Marco Rojas produced a brilliant turn and shot in the 25th minute which flew over the crossbar before his midfield mate Vince Lia had to be replaced by Daniel two minutes later because of a hamstring injury. There was also injury news in the Reds camp with left-back Cassio having to come off with a quadriceps problem with the returning Osama Malik, back in the Adelaide shirt for the first time since he left for North Queensland Fury, his replacement.
GOAL After a nice build-up, the visitors took the lead in the 34th minute when Rojas received the ball on the right flank before providing an absolutely pinpoint cross for Greenacre who netted his seventh of the season with a diving header.
Rojas was becoming a nuisance for the Reds defence, providing another nice ball for Greenacre soon after the goal but his low shot was blocked by Galekovic - the home side seemed to be a little rocked by the opening goal.
van Dijk's 43rd minute free-kick after Tim Brown had handled the ball outside the box went inches wide of the mark before Vukovic produced a vital save when Reid made another good run but his shot from an angle was kept out by the Phoenix custodian just moments before the half-time whistle.
The first chance of the second half came when Daniel found Nick Ward outside the area and the former Melbourne Victory man sent a swerving shot goalward but Galekovic managed to get a hand to it and knock it to safety for the Reds.
In the 54th minute, Reds midfielder Francisco Usucar lashed his shot over the top of Vukovic's goal before Brown forced Galekovic into a top save a few minutes later with a pile driver from way out as the match really started to heat up down both ends.
Adelaide were so very unlucky not to grab an equaliser in the 67th minute when Travis Dodd controlled with his head before advancing into the area and slotting underneath Vukovic. However, as his shot was heading towards the goal-line, Jade North managed to slice a clearance into the crossbar and out to safety as the Phoenix somehow stayed in the lead.
Ward forced another top-shelf save out of Galekovic in the 72nd minute from long range before Dylan Macallister was played in on goal but had his shot blocked as the home side looked keen on finishing off the game with a second but van Dijk had different ideas as he was doing all he could to lift the home side.
But despite their valiant attempts, the Reds were unable to bridge the gap as the Phoenix held on for a confidence-boosting win which is likely to see the two sides meet in the first week of the finals.
AUEugene Galekovic (gk), Cameron Watson, Nigel Boogaard, Dario Bodrusic (Hughes 46'), Cassio (Malik 31'), Paul Reid, Francisco Usucar, Marcos Flores, Iain Ramsay (Slory 62'), Travis Dodd, Sergio van Dijk
Subs - Mark Birighitti (gk), Osama Malik (31'), Adam Hughes (46'), Andy Slory (62')
Subs - Reece Crowther (gk), Daniel (27'), Oscar Roberto Cornejo, James Musa