A Tyler Boyd brace helped Wellington Phoenix sign off 2014 with a bang, crushing Adelaide United 3-1 in Wednesday's New Year's Eve clash at Coopers Stadium.
With their third successive triumph, the Phoenix leapfrogged the undermanned and at times unintelligent Reds into the third spot on the A-League ladder.
Ken Cunningham's 54th-minute goal was equalised by Sergio Cirio before Boyd helped Wellington recapture the lead shortly after a brief melee during which Adelaide lost their focus.
Boyd then applied the finishing touches to the visitors' new year's celebrations by slotting his second in the dying seconds as United threw the kitchen sink forward and tried in vain to equalise.
0-1 (Cunningham 54') A grand Bonevacia through ball landed in the pocket of Jeremy Brockie who, one-on-one with Paul Izzo, went to the turf and must have been close to earning a penalty. The ball rebounded out to Cunningham who took advantage of the untidy scrimmage and rolled it past Izzo to the left.
1-1 (Cirio 73') Awer Mabil delved into his bag of tricks, zig-zagging his way into the box and cutting one nicely inside, laying it on a platter for Cirio, who tucked away the sitter to equalise.
1-2 (Boyd 77') After a horrible Cam Watson turnover, Boyd pounced and made the home side pay. The young substitute closed in and with the inside of his left foot, finished with class, giving Izzo no chance. However replays suggested Boyd may have been somewhat fortunate with some hand contact involved.
1-3 Boyd (90+3') In desperation, Izzo stormed forward for an Adelaide corner at the death. After a goal-mouth scramble, Wellington cleared and gained control. With minimal hindrance, the forward-charging Boyd converted comfortably from 10 yards one-on-one to make it 3-1 with only seconds remaining.
WHAT THEY SAID
“First of all I'd like to thank God almighty, but it feels great. Credit to the boys, they worked hard and I just came on at the end and did what I could.
“I think we just need to stay humble, keep working hard like we are, good things will come. If we carry on the way things are going I think it's going to be our year.” Phoenix striker Tyler Boyd
“At home, last game of the year, we expected better, but we didn't produce today and we paid the price.
“I think we just weren't ourselves, we didn't keep possession. We did create some chances that we didn't take which has been the story of our season so far.” Adelaide striker Bruce Djite
Pablo Sanchez's shoulder charge on Manny Muscat kicked off an ugly fracas near the visitors' bench in the 75th minute.
Reds coach Josep Gombau unnecessarily got involved, leaving his area and getting stuck into Phoenix captain Andrew Durante and Wellington's coaching staff.
The home team lost its focus badly, while the Phoenix appeared to fashion a new resolve following the incident.
Teenaged goal-keeper Izzo, drafted into the starting XI with skipper Eugene Galekovic on Asian Cup national duties, had some nervous early moments with some shaky distribution.
But he redeemed himself nicely when, one-out with Ben Sigmund from a dangerous Vince Lia cross, he snared a powerful, aerial 'contested mark' one-out with Ben Sigmund, the likes of which an AFL centre half-forward would have proudly claimed.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Cam Watson was put out of his misery when he was substituted out in the 82nd minute after a horror patch when he virtually gifted Boyd's first goal with a bad turnover and almost served another one to Jeremy Brockie moments later with another mistake.
OPTA DAYA KEY STAT
Even without spearheads Nathan Burns and Roy Krishna, goals weren't hard to come by for the visitors. The Phoenix got on the scoreboard for the ninth successive match - a new club record.
The coach killer was, in this instance, a captain crucifier. Craig Goodwin found space in the area on 41 minutes and from an acute angle fluffed an attempted squeeze through what was a non-existent gap.
Shortly afterwards Bruce Djite, Adelaide's acting skipper in Eugene Galekovic's absence, stamped his authority and appeared to give Goodwin some stern advice, seemingly telling the tall left winger that the ball should have been crossed to where Djite, Cirio and Mabil were lurking in better positions.
THE FINAL WORD
After a wobbly end to 2014, Adelaide will need to improve significantly when they kick off the new year against high-flying Perth Glory in a Monday night blockbuster.
After earning a grand away win, Phoenix face a sharp three-day turnaround before hosting Brisbane Roar on Sunday afternoon in another stern test of their top-three credentials.
Merrick shrugs off Gombau spat
Wellington Phoenix coach Ernie Merrick refused to be drawn into his opposite number Josep Gombau's aggressive approach towards the Phoenix bench during the heated second-half sideline stoush in Wednesday's emphatic 3-1 New Year's Eve triumph over Adelaide United at Coopers Stadiu
Preview: Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix
It's third versus fourth in the Hyundai A-League to sign off on 2014, with a depleted Adelaide United facing a major test at home to Wellington Phoenix on New Year's Eve, although the absence of the competition's top scorer from the visitors' line up, as well as another key threa