Weary Reds succumb to Phoenix

Adelaide United FC will now put all of its focus on keeping hold of third spot on the table, after any chance of climbing to second place was extinguished following a 1-0 loss to the Wellington Phoenix at Hindmarsh Stadium.

Adelaide United FC will now put all of its focus on keeping hold of third spot on the table, after any chance of climbing to second place was extinguished following a 1-0 loss to the Wellington Phoenix at Hindmarsh Stadium.

While there was no shortage of effort from the Reds throughout the 90 minutes, playing a third game in a week on the back of two draining encounters appeared to catch up with the home side as Chris Greenacre-s first half goal gave the Phoenix their first win in Adelaide in what was the New Zealand club-s 100th Hyundai A-League game since they entered the competition.

The result leaves the Reds four points behind the Central Coast Mariners and out of reach of second position and the double chance, the emphasis for United now is to try and lock down third heading into the finals.

Captain Travis Dodd said the Reds could not use the heavy schedule as an excuse, and that they would need to pick themselves up for what has become a highly significant match against Melbourne Victory at the Adelaide Oval on Friday night.

“It-s very difficult to back up after three days again, I guess considering the conditions of the last two games it was going to be tough, but we can-t use that as an excuse,” Dodd said.

“We just need to prepare as best we can and go out and play like men and try and grind out results. Unfortunately it didn-t happen for us tonight, so that-s second spot on the table is unachievable for us now.”

“It makes our next game against Melbourne ultra important, we need the points and I think we just need the confidence to go into the finals.”

Croatian defender Dario Bodrusic was given his debut for the club as he replaced Robert Cornthwaite, who failed to come up for the game due to back soreness, while Coolen also chose to rest Mathew Leckie following his three appearances since recovering from a knee injury.

In stark contrast to the stifling heat that confronted the Reds just seven days earlier against the Mariners, cool blustery conditions greeted the sides for this encounter.

The temperature may have dropped but it did not take long for the game to heat up, Marcos Flores playing Dodd through in the opening 26 seconds, the Reds captain sending an early warning sign to Phoenix keeper Danny Vukovic as he hit his effort across the goal face.

Then in the next 90 seconds it was Wellington-s turn to try their luck and they went inches from scoring when Greenacre had Eugene Galekovic beaten only for Nigel Boogaard to clear the ball just as it was about to cross the goal line.

Some superb interplay in midfield led to the Reds creating two quality opportunities to convert, but some indecision and lack of conviction prevented the home side from finding the back of the net.

The Reds upped the ante as they forced the Phoenix into some desperate defending, however United suffered a blow when a knock to the thigh ended Cassio-s night after just half an hour, the Brazilian-s departure giving Osama Malik his first appearance in a Reds shirt since arriving from the North Queensland Fury.

Malik joined Boogaard in the heart of defence sending Bodrusic out to the left, and within four minutes of the reshuffle, the Phoenix struck.

Marco Rojas found Greenacre with an inviting cross from the right, the striker making the most of the quality delivery as he put his header past Galekovic from close range.

Sergio van Dijk flashed a free kick over the bar as the Reds searched for a quick response, Paul Reid then going even closer as Boogaard found the midfielder with a direct ball down the channel, but Reid could not beat Vukovic.

Coolen moved his deck around further for the start of the second half as Bodrusic made way for Adam Hughes, the Reds with 45 minutes to try and keep their second placed hopes alive.

But it was the Phoenix who were providing the impetus, Nick Ward stinging the gloves of Galekovic with a venomous strike from 25 metres before Tim Brown forced another sharp save from the Reds stopper as Wellington looked to drive their advantage home.

Andy Slory was introduced for his home debut and the slick Dutch winger gave the Reds some life with his pace down the left hand side, but time and again the Wellington defence repelled the attacks to frustrate the United faithful.

In the 67th minute Dodd all but thought he had found the equaliser as he nodded a Flores through ball down to his own advantage before sending his shot through the legs of Vukovic.

But with the ball heading towards the goal, Jade North made a desperate slide, which saw the ball come off the Wellington defender, hit the underside of the bar and fall back into the field of play.

As the time was getting away from the Reds, van Dijk was proving a constant threat, but even the league-s leading scorer could not break through the Phoenix barrier.

The Reds continued to press but with a place in the finals on the line, Wellington were not about to let their lead and the three points slip.

Adelaide United will kick off the final weekend of the regular season with a blockbuster against Melbourne Victory at the Adelaide Oval on Friday night. Tickets for the match are available through Ticketek.

Match Details Adelaide United FC 0 Wellington Phoenix 1 (Greenacre 34-) Referee: Matthew Breeze Crowd: 7,498 @ Hindmarsh Stadium

Adelaide United: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 6.CASSIO (22.Osama MALIK 29-), 9.Sergio VAN DIJK, 10.Marcos FLORES, 12.Paul REID, 13.Travis DODD (c), 14.Cameron WATSON, 16.Dario BODRUSIC (8.Adam HUGHES 46-), 17.Iain RAMSAY (11.Andy SLORY 62-), 21.Francisco USUCAR

Substitutes not used: 20.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk) Yellow cards: Nil Red cards: Nil

Wellington Phoenix: 19.Danny VUKOVIC (gk), 3.Tony LOCHHEAD, 4.Nicky WARD, 6.Tim BROWN, 9.Chris GREENACRE, 13.Troy HEARFIELD, 15.Jade NORTH, 17.Vince LIA (11.DANIEL 27-), 21.Marco ROJAS, 22.Andrew DURANTE (c), 23.Dylan MACALLISTER

Substitutes not used: 10.Oscar Roberto CORNEJO, 12.James MUSA, 20.Reece CROWTHER (gk) Yellow cards: Brown 42-, Hearfield 64-, Durante 80-, Macallister 86- Red cards: Nil