Adelaide’s capitulation to Melbourne Victory last weekend has not only left United entrenched amongst the A-League’s bottom sides, it provided rivals Victory with a must needed win. The build-up to this weekend’s clash against fellow strugglers, the Melbourne Heart has been centred around the fate of both Gombau and Heart boss John Aloisi, who are both desperate for a win to end disappointing runs of form.
Early parts of the first half last week showed the strength of Victory’s pressing with Adelaide’s focus on more patient possession. As the game progressed the Reds were typically caught on the counter. The high defensive line and aggressive positioning of the back four was exposed in exactly the same way as the home game against the Victory earlier this year, a tactical decision which has shown to do more harm than help against Melbourne. United’s pressure on the ball, communication and general organisation slowed to a stop which handed the initiative back to the home side.
For the Reds Jon McKain was really missed in central defence, as Osama Malik and Nigel Boogaard struggled to deal with Victory and neither Michael Zullo nor Tarek Elrich had much impact going forward. No-one individual in midfield impressed either. Marcelo Carrusca was ineffective and the key cog of the midfield, Spaniard Isaias, was guilty giving up possession too easily and cost United a third goal late on with his poor clearance. Fabio Ferreira and Sergio Cirio’s contribution was limited, Cirio’s penalty too weak to test Nathan Coe. Overall United got what they deserved.
Lax in concentration and rash in decision making, it seemed for the vast majority of the game their mentality to compete and reduce the deficit was entirely lacking. This weekend against the Heart, Adelaide need first and foremost to show more fight for the three points before they begin a tough run of fixtures at home.
Critically Josep Gombau seems, at this stage of the season, incapable of putting together a winning team, while credit last week goes to Melbourne Victory for having the mentality to defend well and break for goals two and three after going down to ten men. Going forward Adelaide did well when the ball moved a lot faster, switching the direction of the play or just opting for the early vertical pass, for example in the buildup to Jeronimo’s penalty-winning run. This shows some of continual promise Gombau has emphasised, that new philosophy which Reds fans have been waiting to see in full flight. No better opportunity to register a win and buy back some faith than against the flailing Heart, with games against Brisbane and Central Coast ahead.
Ultimately, as well as a horrible result against the Victory, the performance was predictably disappointing for United. Even with a man’s advantage the Reds could neither create a significant amount of scoring chances nor hold their composure to test the goalkeeper. This weekend’s fixture cannot come soon enough as the Reds eleven attempt to redeem themselves. If Adelaide muster a creditable performance and three points against Melbourne Heart then Gombau will buy time for his larger project. Anything less than the win would suggest to Reds the focus should be on keep themselves off the foot of the table rather than dream of finals football.