Physical contest: Ben Sigmund of the Phoenix tackles Michael Zullo of Adelaide United. Photo: Getty Images
Missing three key players, Adelaide United dug in to grind out a 1-0 win over Wellington Phoenix and move one step closer to the A-League finals.
Adelaide hadn't won in Wellington since 2007, and had to work hard for the win on Sunday, with only Marcelo Carrusca's second-half penalty separating the two teams after 90 minutes.
The win consolidates Adelaide's fourth place on the ladder with 37 points, ahead of fifth-placed Melbourne Victory on goal difference and one point astray of Western Sydney Wanderers in third.
Adelaide coach Josep Gombau was particularly pleased with the way his side performed despite the absence of key players Jon McKain, Jeronimo Neumann and Sergio Cirio.
Former Phoenix defender McKain's hip injury leaves him in doubt for Adelaide's clash on Friday with Melbourne Heart, but Gombau is hopeful Neumann and Cirio will be available.
"I'm satisfied because the players worked very hard, and finally we got the result that got us a little bit closer to the finals."
Gombau said Adelaide learnt from its 2-1 loss to the Phoenix in Auckland nearly two months ago, playing to its strengths on Sunday in blustery conditions at Westpac Stadium.
"Today we played more thinking about what we do well, today we played more our style."
A scoreless first half wasn't without incident, with both teams delivering some crunching tackles in a torrid midfield battle.
Off-contract Belgian striker Stein Huysegems had the Phoenix's best chance of the opening spell, forcing an excellent sprawling save from Adelaide keeper Eugene Galekovic right on half-time.
Adelaide worked hard to keep possession in a scrappy game that featured more than 50 free kicks and eight yellow cards.
The team's patience paid dividends in the 57th minute when Tarek Elrich was sliced down in the box by Phoenix skipper Andrew Durante and Carrusca coolly converted the penalty.
Wellington continued to push for a goal, coach Ernie Merrick introducing Costa Rican playmaker Carlos Hernandez, Roy Krishna and Tyler Boyd in a fruitless effort to snatch a late goal.
Merrick said Adelaide's possession-based midfield game paved the way for the win, and the Phoenix were punished for not finishing the chances they created.
"Our boys fought very hard – it was a game of few chances at each end. I thought we had the better chances, but they played the better football in the midfield," he said.