Some Adelaide fans, caught up in the emotion of a fantastic atmosphere against traditional rivals, Melbourne Victory, would have left Coopers Stadium on Friday disappointed to concede late and draw in front of a recording breaking crowd of 16,504.
At one stage the result looked very different. Having gone two goals up against a side many are tipping for the A-League title this was a home team buoyed by a ‘honeymoon period’ under new coach Josep Gombau. As it turned out United failed to sustain these good early moments and by the end of ninety minutes the Reds were lucky to be in sight of Melbourne Victory at all.
Going ahead from a dubious penalty, United had the luck of the referee’s decisions in the first half while also showing the occasional attacking threat through combination play and direct running. Awer Mabil, an early substitute, had an extremely promising showing which should again highlight his potential to the rest of the country. Mabil has fantastic acceleration and plenty of fancy dribbling up his sleeve, which has seen him included for the Young Socceroos.
On Friday night he showed confidence coming on in front of a packed crowd, and soon found great joy cutting in from the left hand side to shoot. Jeronimo was, like last week, in perfect position to tuck away the rebound for two nil. Up until that stage Adelaide had showed great energy in recovering the ball, aided by Gombau placing the defence very high, however this would cost them in the second half.
From the beginning of the game Melbourne Victory showed their intention in finding the space behind Adelaide’s back four, with their wide forwards preventing Michael Zullo and Tarek Elrich from venturing forward. But as the game progressed Victory’s dominance became more pronounced, and this if not for poor finishing this would’ve shown. Archie Thompson was poor, finding himself offside more often than not, but when in possession he still managed to test the Reds backline. It seemed inevitable that United would concede to the Victory, with Gui Finkler and James Troisi, one goal each, finding it easy to cut through Adelaide’s midfield in the last fifteen.
The home side failed to compete for possession well after the break. Cameron Watson at the base of midfield struggled to repel Victory’s runners and eventually succumbed to injury, while on the plus side centre-back Osama Malik stood up and justified his selection alongside Jon McKain.
The young Reds were facing a side more than one step above Perth Glory and they lacked composure against seasoned A-League veterans in Mitch Nichols and Mark Milligan in the Victory midfield. Youngster Connor Pain was disappointing for Melbourne, while Jason Geria was strong both going forward and defending from right-back. Geria firms as one of the league’s best youth prospects, continuing on his good form after appearing in Australia’s U-20 World Cup campaign over the winter.
Gombau attributed Adelaide’s fade out to fitness, after playing with nine at the end last week, and a number of injuries, both pre-game and during, which probably has some merit. Some of Adelaide’s key men were missing, Carrusca especially, and younger players like Mabil and Jordan Elsey, A-League debutant, were given some valuable experience.
Unlike some pre-match Fox Sports predictions it seems the Gombau revolution has not quite conquered the A-League yet, the game proving instead an emotional result for Ange Postecoglou who may depart Victory for the national coaching job by next week.
United now face a road trip to the Central Coast up against the other likely option for the Socceroos’ coaching job in Graham Arnold. At this stage of the campaign Gombau seems focused on a need to stay the course, which will be all the more easier with a settled eleven starting next week.