Phoenix win in stoppage time
A Ben Sigmund header deep into stoppage time has handed Wellington Phoenix a 2-1 win over Adelaide United.
A Ben Sigmund header deep into stoppage time provided the perfect finish for the Wellington Phoenix as they grabbed a 2-1 win over Adelaide United in Christchurch.
The match ended in controversial circumstances with Reds skipper Travis Dodd sent off by Peter O'Leary seven minutes from time then Phoenix coach Ricki Herbert sent to the stands by the referee just before Sigmund's match-winning heroics.
The red card for Dodd was a harsh decision as replays showed that the contact he made with Vince Lia's head was purely accidental as he tripped over the Phoenix player as he lay on the ground.
O'Leary showed no hesitation in going for a straight red much to the astonishment of the Adelaide skipper who tried to plead his case.
It left the visitors a man down and grimly hanging on for a share of the spoils with the score locked 1-1.
But a curling corner kick from Marco Rojas picked out Sigmund and the big defender rose above the defence to glance the ball home to the delight of the 14,108 strong crowd at AMI Stadium.
It was only the second win for the Phoenix against Adelaide. Their only previous success also came in Christchurch last season.
Adelaide had gone ahead thanks to a 14th minute Sergio van Dijk header. That was cancelled out by Tim Brown's goal a minute into the second half before the drama really began.
"I'm very proud," said Herbert. "I've said for the last couple of weeks that I think the players have worked hard and the performances have reflected a lot closer to where we were last year."
"I think today has taken that another step forward. I thought we were very, very good and at the end of the day there was only one team that was going to win."
Aside from Dodd's sending off, O'Leary also booked Phoenix players Andrew Durante (23 minutes), Chris Greenacre (86 minutes) and Nick Ward (87 minutes) while Adelaide had Marcos Flores and Robert Cornthwaite booked in the first half.
It was a very even first 45 minutes with van Dijk's header the only thing splitting the two sides as they went into the break.
Cassio floated the ball into the box from a free-kick and the Reds striker rose to flick it in off the post.
Van Dijk could have had a second a few minutes later when Adelaide got forward on the counter-attack. Cassio played a great ball in from the left and it was only the last-ditch effort of Durante that stopped his side from going further behind.
Overall though, it was the Phoenix who had more shots on goal in the opening spell but they couldn't make them count with Ward blasting a couple over and Lia firing his effort straight at Eugene Galekovic.
Paul Ifill, who was closely marked by Iain Fyfe, also had a couple of half chances but squirted his first one wide off the side of his boot then turned and shot straight at the Adelaide keeper before finding the side netting with another attempt as the first half came to a close.
The Reds always looked dangerous on the counter attack and they opened up the Phoenix defence with relative ease as the first half wore on.
Wellington didn't help themselves by giving away possession far too easily in the middle of the park.
One such break gave Fabien Barbiero plenty of time and space in the 31st minute after a good run down the left by Iain Ramsay but the midfielder blasted his shot over.
The second half had only been going a minute when Brown stole in to score Wellington's equaliser. Ward's pass split the Reds defence and Sigmund's cross picked out the Phoenix midfielder who poked the ball home for his fifth of the season.
The home side mounted wave after wave of attack after that. Ifill botched a golden chance to put his side in front when he mis-hit a great ball into the box from youngster Rojas, who came on for Daniel in the 61st minute, which Fyfe inexplicably left.
Rojas was involved in another surge forward but took too many touches and Ifill then Ward also couldn't make the opportunity count.
Brown was denied a second goal by a combination of Galekovic and the crossbar in the 77th minute after a counter attack from deep by the Phoenix before the drama really began.
Dodd was given his marching orders, Herbert was sent from the sidelines by O'Leary and watched from the stands as Greenacre had a header glance just wide before Sigmund's heroics delivered a much-needed three points for the home side.