Costa Rican duo Carlos Hernandez and Kenny Cunningham returned from international duty with telling effect as the Wellington Phoenix beat Adelaide United 2-1 on Saturday in their A-League clash in Auckland.
Hernandez, who was a constant threat in midfield, scored the first goal from the spot.
He created the other in the shadow of halftime for Cunningham, who produced a slick finish.
Substitute Awer Mabil scored a late consolation for the visitors, turning home a Jeronimo Neumann cross in second-half stoppage time.
The result at Eden Park ended the Reds’ seven-match unbeaten run.
It also lifted the Phoenix to just a point behind their opponents, who had started the round in sixth place.
The encounter in front of 18,056 fans had a cagey start before plenty of end-to-end football unfolded.
But sides had chances before Hernandez provided the breakthrough in the 22nd minute.
Phoenix striker Stein Huysegems, moments earlier, had been foiled by keeper Eugene Galekovic after being put in a one-on-one situation by a great Hernandez pass.
When the ball ended up back in the penalty area, Hernandez and defender Daniel Bowles collided and referee Peter Green pointed to the spot.
Hernandez stood up, winked at Galekovic, before sending the keeper the wrong way.
Huysegems had another great opportunity 10 minutes later to add to his season’s tally of eight goals.
But he hit a post and then, having fallen on his backside, put the rebound against the crossbar.
Adelaide chased the equaliser, pushing Bowles and fellow full-back Tarek Elrich forward, while Jeronimo was proving a handful out wide on the left.
But they fell further behind in the 44th minute.
Hernandez, in heavy traffic on halfway, managed to get a ball to Cunningham, who sped down the touchline before cutting back to fire a shot into the corner of the net.
The attacking intent from both sides continued into the second half, with Cunningham and Adelaide defender Jon McKain having chances shortly after the restart.
With half an hour to go, Jeronimo had a shot blocked by Cunningham and it ricocheted against a post.
At the other end, Phoenix substitute Jeremy Brockie had a couple of late openings but couldn’t capitalise, before Mabil had the last word.