Concentration lapses cost Adelaide United a golden chance to snatch pole position for the first time this season in Wollongong on Sunday.
Israeli international Tomer Hemed scored the winner from the penalty spot for Wellington Phoenix in the seventh minute of stoppage time in a 2-1 win at WIN Stadium.
Reds gloveman Joe Gauci flooring Phoenix substitute Jaushua Sotirio during a Phoenix forward thrust when the final whistle was seconds away saw Adelaide drop all points after taking the lead.
Adelaide’s Stefan Mauk scored the second half opener.
Phoenix’s Ben Waine squared the ledger before the sides meet again at Hindmarsh in 12 days.
“Deflated, we were 1-0 up and we had a lot of good chances to make it 2-0,’’ Mauk told Fox Sports.
“It’s disappointing because we have become accustomed to winning and it’s disappointing.”
Ryan Strain came close to scoring his first A-League goal in the 76th minute but his angled drive was expertly parried by Phoenix gloveman Oliver Sail before Josh Cavallo fired the rebound over the bar.
As Adelaide pressed for a winner, the Reds played a high risk game and paid the ultimate price when it was caught short during Phoenix counter attacks.
A superb team effort set up Adelaide’s opening goal and Mauk’s seventh of the season.
In a move involving striker Tomi Juric and winger Ben Halloran when Phoenix had been outnumbered by a solid Reds press, the skipper angled his shot past gloveman Oliver Sail from eight metres.
Phoenix, however, came back with a Waine equaliser.
Adelaide was caught short on numbers and square in defence in the 58th minute when concentration was at its best for the “home side.”
Ulises Davila did all the damage from midfield with a defence splitting ball which saw Reds centre backs Jordan Elsey and George Timotheou isolated in a two-on-two situation.
Adelaide United couldn’t stop Wellington from continuing its hot run of form.Source:Getty Images
TEXT BOOK FIRST HALF
The first half was a welcome change from the usual basketball-style transitions seen this season, both sides kept possession as best they could.
Phoenix had the best chance when fleet-footed Mexican Davila set up Waine who watched his header crash against the crossbar.
Phoenix’s Alex Rufer escaped with what appeared to be a scissor tackle on Craig Goodwin with just a caution.
A frustrating lack of camera angles were unable to determine whether the challenge was worth investigating further when VAR reviewed the incident in the 10th minute.
JUANDE IS THE KEY
The former Spezia of Italy and Real Betis of Spain midfielder hsd been deployed as a sweeper in front of the Reds centre backs but he has proven much more than a cleaner after joining the club just a month ago.
The Spaniard has the ability to put himself in positions to win balls, release Adelaide’s super wide men Halloran and Goodwin and take pressure off his teammates with perfect timing.
Adelaide’s clever pressing game from attack has also added another dimension with Halloran and Goodwin doing much of the hard work when the Reds haven’t got the ball.
However, not all his teammates were on the same wavelength in Wollongong which cost the Reds dearly.
Wellington Phoenix 2 (Ben Waine 58m, Tomer Hemed 97m) Adelaide United 1 (Stefan Mauk 51m) at WIN Stadium – Referee: Adam Kersey
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