Adelaide United hosted Sydney FC on Friday night in a tense match that ended with both sides playing out a goalless draw in front of a stellar crowd of 16,015. It was just the third United match that has ended goalless under the tutelage of coach Josep Gombau.
After a first half that failed to capture the imagination despite a few moments of drama, United dominated proceedings but appeared to have gone a goal down when Sydney captain Nikola Petković curled home a free kick from long range, only for referee Alan Miliner to rule the goal out and order the kick to be retaken.
United pressed for a late winner but couldn’t unlock the Sydney defence, Marcelo Carrusca coming closest with a golden chance from eight yards out, he slipped and made minimal contact with his left foot as two points went begging.
Cirio continues to excel
Adelaide winger Sergio Cirio showed once again why he’s such an integral part of United’s attacking threat.
The return to 4-3-3 in recent weeks has given the little Spaniard more space to operate in and he could have had two assists and a goal in the first half.
He played through teammate Carrusca with a slide rule pass that split the Sydney defence only for Carrusca to fire straight at Vedran Janjetović in the Sky Blues’ goal.
Cirio then struck the near post reacting quickest to a rebound off a defender, before showing his undervalued work rate to win the ball in injury time and play through winger Awer Mabil, who blazed his effort over the bar.
Cirio also produced a mazy run with time running out, dashing past a couple of Sydney defenders before being foiled at the last by Janjetović.
Ali Abbas dominates his flank
The Iraqi international highlighted why he’s been brought back into the national team setup recently with another solid performance on the left of Sydney’s defence. Abbas’ exceptional work rate kept his direct opponent Awer Mabil under wraps for large portions of the match.
Abbas’ delivery is an area of his game that often goes unnoticed but he provided several threatening crosses from wide left that tested the Reds’ defence on each occasion. He switched to the right flank in the second half and continued to pose problems for the United rearguard.
Janjetović keeps the Reds at bay
Janjetović has been under increased scrutiny since his high profile error in the Sydney derby, but on Friday night he showed why he’s the Sky Blues’ undisputed number one.
Janjetović produced a series of fine stops to deny United who were in full attacking flow during the second half.
His fantastic block to deny Cirio in the dying minutes kept Sydney in the match, as did his strong hands from crosses in both halves.
The driven cross to the near post is a favourite tactic of Adelaide when in wide areas and Janjetović was alert to this danger, routinely snatching the ball away before a red shirt could reach it.
Coaches differ on the result’s value
Sydney FC coach Graham Arnold was happy with the point and conceded that United were the better side for the majority of the match.
“I think they probably had more of the game. As I just said to the boys, it’s not our job to entertain when we’re away from home,” Arnold said post match.
“If you pick up a point every time you go away from home then we’ve got to be happy.
“Our defence was strong, our character was good, there’s so much upside to us.”
When asked if the ambition was to play for a point, Arnold said that was never a consideration.
“No, no, never. We always want to win.”
Offering a contrary point of view, Adelaide United coach Josep Gombau wasn’t pleased and saw it as two points dropped.
“I think that the score is not fair,” a somewhat frustrated Gombau said.
“I am not worried because playing like this it is not normal that you miss ten chances, I am sure that on another day we will score.”
When asked about why United couldn’t finish their chances, Gombau was in a philosophical mood.
“One day the ball doesn’t want to go in and doesn’t go [in the net].
“In the end it’s football. Put the ball in. We didn’t put the ball in.”
Adelaide United host Central Coast Mariners at Coopers Stadium in the FFA Cup semi finals on Wednesday night.