A blistering first half was enough to steer 10-man Adelaide United to a crucial 3-1 win over Wellington Phoenix at Coopers Stadium on Sunday.
United were cruising into the break leading 3-0 thanks to goals from Michael Marrone and a double to Apostolos Stamatelopoulos before the latter was sent off in first-half injury time for a reckless challenge. Wellington dominated the second half but the Reds managed to hold on for a valuable victory and in the process, draw level with the fourth-placed Phoenix on 37 points.
Marrone starting proceedings with a rare goal on 10 minutes, heading in from a perfectly delivered Craig Goodwin corner. It was just the Reds defender’s second A-League goal in over 200 matches.
Adelaide continued to dominate and doubled their lead on 17 minutes with some delightful build-up play. Ben Halloran backheeled for Scott Galloway on the right wing before the full back whipped in a low cross for Stamatelopoulos to blast home from the edge of the six yard box.
Wellington worked their way back into the contest but, against the run of play, United scored a third with Stamatelopoulos bagging his second on the stroke of half-time. Goodwin supplied the cross from the left and the young Reds striker powered his header under the body of keeper Filip Kurto.
From the resulting kick-off, Stamatelopoulos went from hero to villain and was sent off for a studs-up challenge on Mandi. Referee Jonathan Barriero initially showed the striker a yellow car before VAR alerted him to the replay and a red card was subsequently issued.
The introduction of Cillian Sheridan helped Phoenix take the ascendancy and inject some urgency into the front third as the visitors looked to get back into the match. Sheridan pulled one back for Wellington in the final 20 minutes to give the away side some hope following a Mandi long-range effort that struck the upright and fell perfectly for the Irish striker.
The visitors continued to pepper the Reds penalty area and after a goal mouth scramble, thought they scored a second before it was ruled out for offside.