Gombau: Opening goal decisive

Adelaide United coach Josep Gombau has pinpointed the opening goal as the key to his side’s 2-0 defeat to Wellington Phoenix at the Hutt Recreation Ground.

With the scores locked at 0-0 and time ticking down, Joel Griffiths scored his first goal for the Phoenix, followed just minutes later by a knockout punch from Nathan Burns.

“The game was very equal," Gombau said.

“Whoever scored the first goal (was likely) to take the game. In this case, Wellington scored. We didn’t defend well on a throw-in and Wellington scored the first goal. After that it was difficult for us.”

On a windy Wellington day, there was also doubt about the suitability of the playing surface after a monsoon-like downpour in the hours before kick-off.

But Gombau refused to blame the pitch.

“It is what we have. It’s not for complaining about. It’s the same for both teams. We used the same field as Wellington. It’s no excuse. We need to play to the conditions," he said.

“In the first half it was very windy and that was difficult. The second half was open.”

After a month on the sidelines with a knee injury, Gombau welcomed back centre-back Nigel Boogaard to partner Dylan McGowan, with the influential defender putting in a typically whole-hearted display.

“We haven’t had (Nigel) for the last five or six weeks, so his return is good news. We also hope Osama (Malik) can play next week," he said.

And despite consecutive defeats and just one win in their last five matches, the Spaniard was far from downcast.

“We have seven games to go. The league is very close. Depending on results, we may only be three points behind the top team," Gombau said.

Adelaide next face the Central Coast Mariners at Coopers Stadium on Thursday evening.