Can United Halt the Roar Freight Train?

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The reds have had some time to soul search after an extremely poor second half performance against the Melbourne Heart last Sunday. Despite conceding two quality strikes and a ‘penalty that wasn’t’, United can have only themselves to blame for the result. The karmic football gods restored some semblance of parity when Marcello Carrusca’s deflected free kick loop into the far corner to make level the scores at 3-3.

It was undoubtedly one of the games of the season last round- at least in terms of the excitement levels on offer. But make no mistake, throwing away a two goal lead against the competition’s lowest ranked side was a huge blow. How will they bounce back?

Meanwhile Brisbane dominated in a win over Perth that was convincing everywhere except the scoreboard, as it ended 1-0. Brisbane were clearly the better side and will have been disappointed not to have put the Glory away earlier. They are the competition’s front runners and will provide a huge test, especially for a United side that has been so open at the back.

Playing the best side in the competition is difficult enough in any situation, but will be near impossible if Adelaide lose their composure as they have done at times this season. United’s three red cards leads the competition. Keeping eleven men on the pitch is a must for the reds.

Jon McKain returns from illness for United, while Liam Miller is back in the squad after recovering from his calf injury for Brisbane. Cassio’s absence means that Michael Zullo will continue at left back up against the side he made 53 A-League appearances for.

Adelaide’s struggles with their high defensive line and failure to keep a clean sheet so far this season have been well documented, and the Roar will be relishing the prospect of getting in behind the defence. Thomas Broich has created more chances than any other player in the league (25), and Besart Berisha is the most dangerous frontman around. It could be a long night for Adelaide if they don’t tighten things up.

When asked after training on Thursday about the creaky defence, defender Nigel Boogard said: “I don’t think it’s a mental thing, we just need to stop conceding silly goals.” The Roar are a clinical side who will pounce on any opportunities that the reds allow them.

Jeronimo Neumann needs to find his range again after not scoring for six games on the trot, while Awer Mabil’s pace could pose problems for Brisbane if he sees time off the bench. Eugene Galekovic will be keen to ensure his decision making and distribution is sharper than last round where he was found out at times, although the reds keeper did produce one of the saves of the season to highlight his skills as a shot stopper.

United have a problem fading late on in games with 9 of their last 14 goals conceded coming in the last half hour of games. This trend could be exposed by the Roar with a glut of late goals, especially with the in-form Kwame Yeboah likely to inject pace as a substitute.

This game should be an exciting clash with both sides knocking the ball around on the perfect Coopers Stadium surface, and there could be plenty of goalmouth action. Add in the fact that Brisbane knocked the reds out of last year’s finals and you have an extra layer to an already promising match up.

Coach Josep Gombau is beginning to realise that results are needed, but points have been difficult to come by so far this season against the two times champions. Gombau’s side rightly still have hopes of a top six finish. A huge examination of their finals credentials awaits Friday night.

Andrew Cussen

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