Can Gombau’s Men put Together a Full Ninety Minutes?

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Adelaide once again failed to last the full 90 against the Roar on Friday night, bringing their fitness and conditioning further into question. Besart Berisha’s second goal of the night was the 10th that the reds have conceded in the final 30 minutes of matches this season. United’s 2-1 loss to Brisbane Roar left them without a win in eight straight fixtures, which is the club’s longest ever winless run. The reds are six points adrift of the top six.

Osama Malik’s 7th minute header gave the reds a deserved early lead and they looked somewhat comfortable up until the 20th minute, when Tarek Elrich lunged in on Corey Brown in a desperate attempt to win the ball. Peter O’Leary had no choice but to award the Roar a penalty and Berisha slotted it, sending Galekovic the wrong way.

United looked to bounce back and built steady pressure before halftime with Lustica, Carrusca and Cirio combining well only for the Spaniard’s end product to let him down twice. The spell of dominance culminated in one of the saves of the season so far from Matt Acton, brilliantly denying Fabio Ferreira. A deflected clearance fell to Ferreira but Acton was equal to it, brilliantly tipping the shot past his right hand upright in the 37th minute.

United’s best attack of the night didn’t actually produce a goal. On the counter in the 71st minute, Marcelo Carrusca turned his man beautifully and played through substitute Jeronimo who volleyed on goal only for Acton to save. The transition was at full pace and the Roar weren’t expecting United to play with that speed. The Reds look better when playing with a good tempo, and need to exploit their ability to play faster through the midfield to catch defences out.

Only moments after that counter attack, the Roar found what turned out to be the winner. Berisha received the ball on the edge of the box and danced through a couple of Adelaide defenders, and as he was falling somehow managed to get a toe to the ball and squeeze it into the net. The United backline looked scare of fouling Berisha and paid the price for their hesitancy.

Adelaide nearly found an equaliser through Awer Mabil’s pace and Carrusca’s vision, but were let down by poor finishing from Cirio and then were unlucky for Jeronimo to miss the target by inches.

Adelaide’s defensive woes so far this season are common knowledge but on Friday night, the backline did look more confident than they have in recent weeks. Unfortunately for the reds two mistakes cost them three points, with one of the league’s best front men punishing United on both occasions. Adelaide can’t afford to keep making mistakes especially this week against a dogged Central Coast side who will give nothing away.

Central Coast produced a typical performance with a 1-0 win over Sydney FC last round, scoring in the 26th minute through a Danny McBreen flick. The Mariners were then content to sit back and absorb pressure, as well as play keep ball when they could. Central Coast have not lost since November 10th, and have kept two clean sheets in a row. They have the league’s best defender by tackle percentage with Trent Sainsbury winning over 75% of his challenges.

The Mariners ability to remain solid and deny space is the main reason that United need to play with greater pace this week. Central Coast are a side set up to blunt Adelaide’s patient passing game and will sit deep, denying space in behind. Their danger on the counter could pose major problems for United’s high defensive line.

Marcos Flores is the danger man for the Mariners as he faces the club with which he won the Johnny Warren medal during the 10/11 season. He has created the most chances for Central Coast (11) and is also their top scorer with three goals. The Argentinean’s creativity will pose problems for United’s backline so they will need to shut him down before he can release the likes of Mitch Duke and McBreen, who have been inconsistent but have plenty of ability.

Josh Rose’s energy and delivery from the left flank could be key with Adelaide struggling to cope with aerial deliveries this season. The Mariners hard running could wear the Reds into the ground and leave them there for the taking in the final half hour, as we have seen so often this season.

The Mariners have not lost their spirit and desire since Phil Moss has taken over the reins at Gosford and that could prove vital in a close game at Cooper’s Stadium. Late winners and clean sheets are trademarks of Central Coast under Graham Arnold and Moss has looked to continue down that path.

Gombau insists that his side don’t have fitness issues and that results will come. They need to come soon or United will lose touch with the top six and that’s not good enough with the squad that Adelaide United have.

Andrew Cussen

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