Reds through to Semi Final following Nix downing

Adelaide United captain Craig Goodwin scored a goal on either side of half-time to guide his side to an at-times nervy 2-0 Elimination Final win over Wellington Phoenix at Coopers Stadium on Friday night.

Carl Veart’s Reds will now progress to a two-legged Semi Final against Central Coast Mariners, with Melbourne City set to face the winner of Saturday night’s Sydney Derby between Sydney FC and Western Sydney Wanderers.

Meanwhile, it’s season over for the ‘Nix, who bow out of the 2022-23 Isuzu UTE A-League Finals Series after a sixth-place finish in head coach Ufuk Talay’s final game at the helm.

Wellington’s post-season demise was orchestrated by a pair of goals from Adelaide’s captain, the first of which coming off his non-favoured right foot, before a second-half penalty set up by substitute Nestory Irankunda put the otherwise wasteful Adelaide out of sight.

Adelaide keeper Joe Gauci was called into action with just one minute on the clock at Coopers Stadium, pushing Phoenix striker Oskar Zawada’s left-footed strike away from danger. The two sides exchanged early blows, with Goodwin picking out Javi Lopez at the back post with a corner, and the Spaniard heading wide of the mark.

The hosts took the lead in the 19th minute after a hopeful cross from Louis D’Arrigo found its way to the back post, where Phoenix full-back Callan Elliot’s bungled clearance fell into the lap of Goodwin for the second time in the game; Goodwin cut onto his right foot to bury his shot past Phoenix keeper Oliver Sail and put the Reds ahead.

With Japanese striker Hiroshi Ibusuki returning from injury, Reds head coach Carl Veart looked to George Blackwood ahead of 17-year-old Luka Jovanovic to lead the Adelaide line. Blackwood spurned a glorious chance to put the hosts two goals ahead with an unmarked header by the penalty spot off a Goodwin cross in the 27th minute.

Soon after, centre-back Nick Ansell ventured forward to head a Lopez cross inches off target. Adelaide were pushing on in their search for a second – but were almost punished for their inaccuracy when Yan Sasse fired a low, driven shot wide from outside the box.

Adelaide midfielder Jay Barnett prevented Steven Ugarkovic from converting a close-range chance on the stroke of half-time with a committed interception – but the ‘Nix almost converted from the subsequent corner, with Alex Rufer brushing an opportunistic attempt off the post from close range, before Joe Gauci swooped in to gather.

The second half began much like the first, with chances at either end. Scott Wootton mis-hit a glorious chance which fell kindly to his feet from a corner, with desperate Reds defending preventing an equaliser. Then, a counter attack sparked by Goodwin funnelled through Jay Barnett and then Blackwood, who couldn’t capitalise on a three-on-two situation.

At the hour mark, Veart made the changes that put Adelaide in the box seat. Off came the busy yet wasteful Blackwood, with Barnett’s magnificent all-round shift also coming to a close. On in their place came Ibusuki and Irankunda.

Within minutes, the latter exploded into life. Irankunda muscled Phoenix full-back Lucas Mauragis off a 50/50 ball in midfield, then drove into attack before playing Goodwin into the box, who drew a foul off a clumsy Elliot challenge.

Referee Alireza Faghani pointed to the spot, and Goodwin stepped up to lift his penalty over Sail and double Adelaide’s advantage. Irankunda’s impact was instant and emphatic as the Reds pulled out of sight at Coopers Stadium.

The 17-year-old proceeded to torment the Phoenix defence, creating multiple chances against tiring full-back Mauragis. Gauci was forced into a save at the death to deprive the ‘Nix a consolation goal, as the full-time whistle blew on a 2-0 Adelaide victory.

The result ended Wellington’s A-League Men campaign, and sent the Reds into a two-legged Semi Final against Central Coast.

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