Sasaki stuns Wellington to secure Adelaide’s first win of the season

Adelaide United have come from behind to defeat Wellington Phoenix 2-1 and secure their first win of the Liberty A-League season.

Emma Main’s first half strike gave Wellington a deserved lead but second-half goals from Emily Condon and Nanako Sasaki ensured Adrian Stenta’s side left Marden Sports Complex with all three points in the bag.

The victory is Adelaide United’s first win since March in the Liberty A-League while Phoenix boss Paul Temple will be left shaking his head as his side came away empty handed despite dominated large periods of the contest.

Wellington started the brighter of the two sides and should have taken the lead in the fifth minute but Emma Main couldn’t get the required touch to steer the ball home from Michaela Foster’s low, driven freekick.

The ‘Nix continued to cause problems for the home side as Kate Taylor played a defence-splitting pass to put Mariana Speckmaier through one-on-one with the keeper however the Venezuelan’s shot cannoned back off the foot of the post.

However the deadlock would soon be broken and it came in the 21st minute courtesy of Emma Main.

An inch-perfect pass from Macey Fraser sent Main through on goal and the winger calmly slotted the ball past the on-rushing Annalee Grove to make it 1-0.

Wellington should have made it two soon after but Manaia Elliott somehow lifted the ball over the bar from two metres out after connecting with Annalie Longo’s low cross.

Main then had Grove beaten all ends up but her shot from the edge of the box curled inches past the far post as the deficit somehow remained at just one heading into half-time.

Adelaide were brighter in the second half but it was still Wellington who were creating the scoring opportunities.

The Reds failed to clear their lines from a Wellington set-piece with the ball eventually falling to the dangerous Macey Fraser on the edge of the box but her low, stinging effort was palmed away by Annalee Grove.

However as the game became stretched late-on the Reds would finally unlock the Wellington defence and it was an Adelaide substitute who played a key role.

A long clearance saw the Phoenix’s high line exposed and while Chelsie Dawber was brilliantly denied when one-on-one with Rylee Foster the ‘Nix keeper couldn’t prevent substitute Emily Condon from firing in the equaliser.

Incredibly the game was then flipped on it’s head in the 85th minute when midfielder Nanako Sasaki whipped in a freekick from a wide area and goalkeeper Rylee Foster couldn’t prevent it from sailing it into the back of the net.

The talking point

Nanako Sasaki’s late freekick secured the win for Adelaide United but goalkeeper Rylee Foster will be left scratching her head as to how she was beaten by the Japanese.

The Phoenix shot stopper had produced a series of excellent saves throughout the match but she seemingly misjudged the flight of Sasaki’s delivery which ultimately nestled into the back of her net.

Wellington will feel as though they did more than enough to secure the victory at Marden Sport Complex but a series of missed chances proved to be too costly for Paul Temple’s team in the end.

The Star

Nanako Sasaki. While she may get the headlines for her match-winning freekick, the Japanese worked tirelessly throughout the 90-minutes to give her side a platform from which to build.

Not only did the central midfielder make more tackles than anyone else on the pitch but she also won more duels all whilst also creating two chances for her teammates.

Add to that the 13 recoveries she made and it was an all-round performance from the Reds midfielder.

What it means

For Adelaide United this result means the world. The Reds were without a win in the Liberty A-League since March but a resolute and dogged performance from Adrian Stenta’s side against one of the competition’s most dynamic teams saw them secure a vital victory.

Next up for the Reds is a tricky away trip against a resurgent Western Sydney Wanderers on December 23.

As for Wellington Phoenix, they miss out on the chance to move up into third on the ladder after suffering their third loss of the campaign and will now have to pick themselves up for a festive fixture against the Newcastle Jets at home.

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