Adelaide United, who have faced up to some heavy recent criticism recently for valuing possession over points, were thrown in the searing heat in Perth against a Glory side who have managed to work their way up the ladder well so far this season. For the first time Josep Gombau faced familiar A-League opposition and given the form guide for United an away draw seems an impressive result, arresting the negativity of the past few weeks with both resolute defending and signs of more coherent combination play. Post-game Gombau’s comments again emphasised his aim of long term progress and specifically mentioned a two year plan to build a successful footballing style, which is a timeframe that may test the patience of both the Coopers crowd faithful and neutral A-League fans alike.
Attacking Play Continues to Evolve
The influence of Cirio as a key component in Adelaide’s attack has started to become evident. With quick feet and explosive acceleration in his locker the sight of the Spaniard cutting in from the left is quickly becoming one of the signature signs of Adelaide’s forward play. While Cirio has had great success in that building stage of play from the middle to the final third, on the opposite flank Fabio Ferreira is typically found staying high and wide, stretching the play and isolating his opposing full-back. Ferreira and super-sub Awer Mabil are most suited to this most direct role in the front three, and Ferreira led the chance created stats for the Perth match after getting himself on the scoresheet in the previous round. There is food for thought as to whether Jeronimo’s predatory instincts alone justify his continued inclusion over a more physical and central hold-up forward like Bruce Djite, who should be match fit for the next game.
Osama Malik Makes a Difference at Both Ends
Malik was again called into the centre-back role for United, and he now might be testing Nigel Boogaard for first team selection there. In contrast to the now twice-suspended Boogaard, Malik is confident in feeding and recycling possession into that middle third. If not for that momentary lapse in concentration or organisation, he would’ve played a solid role in a clean sheet for the Reds on the road. While Adelaide did move the ball into the final third more successfully overall, ultimately both goals came from set pieces. For the Reds, Malik sending a strong header to the far corner of the net after Tarek Elrich’s floated ball in originated from another variant on the short corner routine.
Balance in Midfield
Steven Lustica did himself no harm in consolidating a first eleven slot as he settled into the ball recycling role well alongside Isaias. The two of them had much more joy this week in retaining the ball in the centre of the pitch, progress from past weeks where possession often consisted of a dreary procession of switching across the back four. Marcelo Carrusca had less of an influence in terms of being that creative hub in the space between the lines, constricted to long range efforts and closed down quickly by the Glory midfield, but he did drop deep to assist in ball retention and was often called upon to foul and break up Glory’s counter-attacking opportunities.
This coming Saturday the Reds face a Melbourne Victory side much changed from that they faced in Round Two. While new coach Kevin Muscat has focussed on retaining a familiar system in his first few weeks in charge the pressure will be mounting for him to arrest their slide down the table. For the Reds an away win will certainly temper talk of overly patience long term planning, and perhaps provide some momentum going into a run of games which may already decide their chances of finishing in the top six this season.