A Manny Muscat own goal and Albert Riera red card helped Adelaide United to a belated Christmas feast and a 3-0 Boxing Day massacre of Wellington Phoenix at Coopers Stadium on Saturday.
After Ghanaian Jeff Sarpong and Muscat fashioned some nice chances at the other end, it was Muscat who reprieved the hosts with his own goal clanger shortly before the interval.
Before then, the Nix were progressively winning the midfield battle but any hope of a Wellington revival was dashed when Albert Riera exited just before the hour-mark with his second yellow card.
The Reds lapped up their advantage with two goals in as many minutes to Craig Goodwin and Michael Marrone providing the bonus Christmas pudding.
WHAT THEY SAID
“I stopped counting after about 100, so it’s very good to get the first goal. To be fair I didn’t even have time to think about it. It sort of just hit me and I didn’t know what to do. It’s a good feeling.” – Adelaide’s Michael Marrone
1-0 (Muscat 42' og) - By the left touchline Craig Goodwin pushed a low cross that was intended for Bruce Djite, but was deflected by Muscat. Unfortunately the veteran defender made a hash of his attempted clearance and miscued the ball high into his own net.
2-0 (Goodwin 73') - Goodwin cut inside and fired a low one from 20 metres which Glen Moss really made a mess of and didn't get down quickly enough for.
3-0 (Marrone 75') - Running into the box, Goodwin's ferocious strike slammed the post and rebounded to Pablo Sanchez, who also smashed the timber with his shot. But Marrone was in the right place at the right time to retrieve the crumbs and send home his first goal in his 131st A-League appearance.
Dylan McGowan's brilliance and desperation in defence denied the Phoenix an equaliser in the 50th minute when the contest was still in the balance.
Roy Krishna was almost ready to celebrate making it 1-1 for his side when, amazingly, his shot was blocked and cleared off the line by McGowan with some help from Galekovic.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
With the contest in the balance early, Jeggo had his long-range blinkers on and cracked two exciting first-half bombs in the space of a few minutes.
In the 23rd minute he launched a missile outside the box which sailed millimetres wide, then on 27 minutes, Bruce Djite deftly back-heeled a neat link pass to Jeggo, who unleashed another bullet, which was blocked by the diving Moss.
Albert Riera's 12th-minute challenge on Sergio Cirio was unnecessary and crude, earning the Spanish left winger an early booking.
Then, with his side desperate to break even, Riera's slide into Jeggo in the 56th minute saw referee Chris Beath reach for a second yellow and a red.
The experienced Spaniard, already with four cautions before this match, will miss Wellington's New Year's Eve assignment with the Central Coast Mariners.
THE FINAL WORD
Adelaide will enter 2016 with renewed confidence and an unbeaten final month of 2015 ahead of their New Year's Day clash with top-of-the-table Western Sydney Wanderers at Pirtek on Friday.
The Phoenix will be keen to make swift amends and remain in touch with the finals pace when they tackle the Mariners in this Thursday's New Year's Eve stoush at Central Coast Stadium.
Adelaide United: Galekovic (c), Marrone, McGowan, Isaias (Mells 83'), Cirio (Dugandzic 79'), Carrusca, Djite (Sanchez 67'), Goodwin, Jeggo, Elrich, Elsey
Wellington Phoenix: Moss, Muscat, Bonevacia, Danaskos, Sarpong (Appiah-Kubi 67'), Rodriguez (Ridenton 74'), McGlinchey (Powell 78'), Riera, Lia, Krishna, Durante (c)
Scorers: Muscat (42' og), Goodwin (73'), Marrone (75')
Red cards: Riera (56')
Yellow cards: Riera (12', 56')
Conditions: 21°C, windy