United’s Watson gives Phoenix a New Year’s gift

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If Josep Gombau has a New Year’s resolution, it should be to get third spot on the ladder back after his men handed it over to Wellington Phoenix in a 3-1 loss at Coopers Stadium on the last day of 2014.

A Tyler Boyd brace helped the Phoenix to win with all the goals coming in an exciting second half, but it could have been a different story for the Reds had defender Cameron Watson not gifted the ball straight to Boyd almost immediately after he came off the bench. The resulting goal was essentially decisive.

Watson was attempting the clear the ball from defence and was totally unmarked before he inexplicably knocked it straight to the Kiwi international, who smashed it past fill-in keeper Paul Izzo in the 76th minute.

Earlier Kenny Cunningham had given the visitors the lead after collecting the ball unmarked in the box courtesy of a cracking Jeremy Brockie run. Brockie appeared to he brought down in the box but the ball landed at the feet of Cunningham who rolled it underneath Izzo ten minutes in to the second half.

15 minutes later Adelaide were able to draw level as Awer Mabil cruised down the right side and snuck a cheeky low cross to goal sneak Sergio Cirio. The Spaniard had no problems tapping the ball into the back of the net, giving the hosts a fighting chance in the match and sending the United faithful into pre-midnight celebrations.

Waton’s brain explosion cut those celebrations short, though.

It was in the 75th minute that the game seemed to take a different complexion though after the players became engulfed in a melee of sorts in the Wellington dugout. Adelaide midfield Pablo Sanchez appeared to be pushed into the Phoenix bench, sending chairs and limbs everywhere and resulting in a heated conference in the technical area. Things came to a head when Adelaide boss Josep Gombau had to be held back by the fourth official as he waved his excited finger in all sorts of directions in protest.

In the dying seconds Boyce was able to kill the game off as he collected the ball as Izzo was sprinting back to his goal, having been at the other end trying to bury a corner. The low drive never looked like missing, and the game was effectively over.

The Reds started the match missing a host of key players, with regular captain and gloveman Eugene Galekovic on national duty, towering centre-backs Nigel Boogaard and Tarek Elrich both suspended and Marcelo Carrusca recovering from a groin injury.

Meanwhile the Pheonix were without red-hot striker Nathan Burns who joined Galekovic in the national squad and were also missing Roy Krishna who picked up a knock against Western Sydney Wanderers.

Typically optimistic Josep Gombau said that while the result was disappointing, the performance was encouraging.

“[The match was] a game you can win lose or draw… I am satisfied with the way we played,” Gombau said.

“I think that we deserved to win thinking about the way that we played, but we made mistakes and bring to them the chances to score.

“The second goal was a big mistake that we did, and when you make these kind of mistakes and the opposition punish you it’s difficult after to win,” he said.

Wellington’s boss Ernie Merrick said that winning the game was an important achievement, and that his squad’s depth was helping him manage the tight schedule.

“The Phoenix have only ever won one game [in Adelaide] so it was a good result for us,” Merrick said.

“I thought we came out of the box pretty slow… but we gradually crept into the game more and more.

“Tyler [Boyd], Kenny [Cunningham] and Jeremy [Brockie] are all starting for the first time really, but at training they’ve been showing they can score consistently.

“With Roy Krishna and Nathan Burns out we knew we had firepower, it just a case of if they could transfer their training performance to their match performance,” he said.

Wellington will take on reigning champs on Saturday 4 January in Wellington, while Adelaide travels to Perth to take on the league leaders on Monday 5 January.

Adelaide United squad: 2. Michael Marrone, 4. Dylan McGowan, 7. Pablo Sanchez, 8. Isaias, 9. Sergio Cirio, 11. Bruce Djite (C), 14. Cameron Watson ( 81’ Bruce Kamau), 16. Craig Goodwin, 17. Awer Mabil, 18. Jimmy Jeggo, 20. Paul Izzo (GK)

Unused substitutes: 15. Benjamin Warland, 26. Anthony Costa, 30. John Hall (GK), 32. Nathan Konstandopoulos

Wellington Phoenix squad: 1. Glen Moss (GK), 2. Manny Muscat, 4. Roly Bonevacia (90+1′ Boxall, 7. Kenny Cunningham (70’ Tyler Boyd), 10. Michael McGlinchey, 11. Jeremy Brockie (84’ Alex Rodriguez), 13. Albert Riera, 16. Louis Fenton, 17. Vince Lia, 18. Benjamin Sigmund, 22. Andrew Durante (C)

Unused substitutes: 19. Thomas Doyle, 20. Lewis Italiano (GK)

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