A second-half goal flurry allowed Adelaide United to conjure a controversial come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Wellington Phoenix.
A second-half goal flurry and a controversial red card allowed Adelaide United to conjure a come-from-behind 3-1 victory over Wellington Phoenix at Hindmarsh Stadium on Saturday.
Led by a brace from Argentine Jeronimo Neumann, the Reds fought back from a 1-0 half-time deficit to inflict the Phoenix's first loss of the season.
Jeronimo's 55th-minute effort saw United drew level after fellow first-year recruit Stein Huysegems scored three minutes out from half-time, before Jeronimo applied the icing on the cake in the 84th minute after Wellington had been reduced to 10 men.
Sandwiched in between was a fine finish from popular veteran Cassio, playing his 100th match for the club, albeit with the aid of a dicey off-side non-call.
The sending off of Ben Sigmund in the 77th minute for minimal contact on Jeronimo allowed the Argentine to then put the contest completely out of reach.
The Reds looked slick and sharp early, providing headaches for a flat-footed Phoenix defence.
Despite their early possession dominance, United were unable to capitalise with a clean shot on goal.
Their frustration was evident when milestone man Cassio and recalled striker Sergio van Dijk were cautioned for a couple of ambitious challenges.
Evidently coach John Kosmina's pre-match directive to play with more aggression following last week's loss to Melbourne Victory did not go unheeded.
In the 11th minute, tall stopper Antony Golec overstepped that fine line when he received a yellow card for his late challenge on Phoenix midfielder Alex Smith.
Five minutes later, in-form Wellington teenager Louis Fenton received a yellow after tangling with Cassio.
Adelaide soon regained their composure and generally looked the more dangerous of the two sides.
Jeronimo's sublime back-heel to Iain Ramsay looked spectacular, but Ramsay's follow-up was safely gathered by Phoenix keeper Mark Paston in the 19th minute.
Barely a minute later, Jeronimo had an even better opportunity to break the deadlock, the star recruit streaming down the right before cutting inside and cracking a close-range shot straight into Paston's chest.
The visitors settled down and, with Fenton looking good, gained some of the impetus.
Fenton, Leo Bertos, Paul Ifill and Sigmund helped create some mini-chances, all of which were denied by the home side's defence, the pick being Sigmund's half-volley, which was tipped away by Reds custodian Eugene Galekovic.
The parochial home supporters were seeing red in the 41st minute when Cassio, streaming down the left flank, was challenged physically by Bertos well inside the box.
The crowd thought Bertos had transgressed, but referee Jarred Gillett was unmoved.
Shortly after, Adelaide's disappointment was amplified when Wellington's boom Belgian striker Huysegems netted three minutes out from half-time.
Ifill picked the ball up wide, cut inside and chipped expertly over the top of United's back four, straight to Huysegems.
The first-year recruit nonchalantly pocketed his third goal in four A-League appearances, when he drove it past Galekovic.
Ifill was again in the mix when he entered the danger zone and chipped to a wide-open Jeremy Brockie, whose fierce hit sailed across the face of goal.
The Reds' defence was being made to work overtime, the home side entering the sheds at half-time trailing 1-0.
Unbowed, Adelaide started the second half with plenty of purpose and secured the equaliser on 55 minutes through Jeronimo.
After pouncing on an unconvincing ricocheted ball just outside the box, the hungry Argentine showed class and composure when he rifled a close-range effort past Paston to make it all square.
Heartbreak for the Phoenix followed three minutes later when Brockie's fine nod from a superb Tony Lochhead cross was disallowed after Brockie was deemed to have been fractionally off-side.
Seizing on Wellington's misfortune, Cassio showcased his sense of occasion when he gave United the lead on 67 minutes.
The 100-gamer, who last scored an A-League goal in October 2009 and had just six in his career before tonight, made a long run from around half-way before feeding Jeronimo, who returned the favour straight back to Cassio, to drill it home from the left.
Action replays showed Jeronimo was probably offside, which would have riled the visitors, who were suddenly under the pump and disadvantaged twice.
Phoenix's disastrous second half escalated in the 77th minute when the experienced Sigmund, who had already received a yellow for a challenge on Jeronimo, was controversially red-carded after making slight contact on Jeronimo, who fell hard to the turf.
It was a game-changing call and which cost the visitors badly when, in the 84th minute, Jeronimo had oodles of room to manoeuvre and curled one into the left-hand corner of the net to make it 3-1 after receiving a clever pass from Dario Vidosic.
Bet365.com Man of the Match: Osama Malik The young midfielder has certainly matured this season and was a rock in the centre of the park for the Reds.
Adelaide United 3 (Jeronimo 55, 84, Cassio 67) Wellington Phoenix 1 (Huysegems 42)
Crowd: 8497 at Hindmarsh Stadium