What we learnt – Adelaide United 2 – 0 Brisbane Roar

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Adelaide United hosted Brisbane Roar in the FFA Cup Round of 16 at Coopers Stadium on Tuesday night in a match that the home side dominated, culminating in a 2-0 scoreline in favour of the Reds.

United controlled the match throughout but especially in the first 45 minutes, where they set up camp inside the Roar half of the pitch and pressured the Brisbane defenders when they were on the ball. United’s pressing gave the Roar a number of problems as they couldn’t play out from the back and continued to turn the ball over in dangerous areas.

United peppered the Roar goal and should have gone ahead when Sergio Cirio found Awer Mabil inside the six yard box, but the Young Socceroo was unable to sort his feet out and missed the ball completely.

The Roar did have a few moments where they threatened the Reds, predominantly through Luke Brattan and Henrique. Brattan latched onto a few loose balls outside the area and struck two powerful efforts that stung the palms of United goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic.

Henrique played on the shoulder of the last man as he does so well, and was a constant menace. He could have impacted the match more had he timed his runs better after being caught offside on numerous occasions.

United finally broke the deadlock in the 35th minute when Mabil whipped in a dangerous cross behind the Roar defence for Bruce Djite to charge onto and fire home. Djite’s sidefoot finish from six yards left stand-in Roar keeper Jamie Young with no chance and gave the Reds a deserved lead.

United held their lead until halftime and threatened to add to it with more creative play giving the Roar problems.

But the United faithful did not have to wait long into the second half for the lead to be doubled. New signing Pablo Sanchez curled in a dangerous cross fellow Spaniard Sergio Cirio rose highest to head home, giving Adelaide a 2-0 lead. Lackadaisical defending from the Roar allowed the 5”4 Cirio the space and time to head past Young, effectively sealing the match.

The Roar threatened Galekovic’s goal sporadically in the second half but failed to manufacture enough chances to worry United as the match petered out after Cirio’s goal.

Awer Mabil is ready to start

The flying winger started just four games last season but he looks set to have a much bigger impact this campaign. It was his perfectly placed and weighted cross that found Djite for the opening goal and this is a big positive as crossing was the least consistent aspect of his game during the 2013/14 season.

Mabil featured in almost all of United’s best moments as his electric pace, trickery and increasingly deft passing gave the Roar defence fits.

Sergio Cirio might be United’s most important player

The Spanish winger was a key player for the Reds last season as he scored eight goals and created a further two, forming part of the A-League’s most potent attacking force.

But this looks set to be an even bigger season for the little man as defences concentrate more on reducing the impact of playmaker Marcelo Carrusca and allow Cirio more space in which to operate.

His ability to create chances for himself and others from the left flank is uncanny and he is likely to be among the goals again this season after having scored in both of Adelaide’s FFA Cup matches. Don’t be surprised if he reaches double figures in the league.

Roar lacking intensity

The Roar looked listless and devoid of inspiration throughout the match as they struggled to cope with United’s gameplan and failed to carry out their own. The Roar had no answer for Adelaide’s high pressing game and were unable to control possession in the way they have in recent seasons.

Perhaps it was because of a heavy pre-season schedule that’s taken them to Townsville amongst other places, or maybe it runs deeper- the absence of their inspirational talisman Besart Berisha, who has joined Melbourne Victory. Berisha’s replacement, Mensur Kurtishi, was unable to influence the game in a cameo role off the bench.

Mulvey said post match that the team “never got into a rythym”, and that his side were affected by the strange atmosphere with two out of four stands at Coopers Stadium closed due to ongoing renovation works.

Smith & Franjic absences felt at the back

Roar captain Matt Smith was ruled out through a combination of injury and a bout of gastro, meaning three inexperienced defenders joined Jade North in the Brisbane rearguard. They were pulled out of position by United’s clever movement and interchanging of players, as well as looking somewhat devoid of leadership.

Veteran keeper Michael Theo was also absent and Jamie Young deputised well in goal but the changing of custodians will unsettle any defence, let alone one as disrupted as the Roar’s.

Interestingly Mike Mulvey pointed out after the match that Smith would not have started, although he would have taken a spot amongst the substitutes. In a positive for Roar fans, Mulvey added Smith is expected to return to training later this week.

Ivan Franjic has been arguably the most consistent Roar player in recent seasons and his combination of work rate and composure was sorely missed.

Brisbane looked quite narrow in attacking areas without an attacking fullback like Franjic, whose industry and dynamism gave the Roar a different dimension to their game. His transfer to Russian club Torpedo Moscow leaves a huge hole in defence that will need to be plugged.

Adelaide United progress to the quarter finals where they will travel to face Sydney FC on October 14, while Brisbane Roar bow out of the cup after their disappointing loss.

Andrew Cussen

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