Adelaide United has passed its first real test of competitive football since the close of the 2013/14 A-League season with a 1-0 defeat of the Wellington Phoenix in their FFA Cup tie at Marden on Tuesday evening.
The Round-of-32 encounter produced few real chances, with both sides content to hold possession of the ball through the midfield and proceed with caution for most of the night.
Both Adelaide and Wellington were missing key players committed to the upcoming A-League All Stars match against Juventus, which may have accounted for the lack of attacking flair on display.
United had to make do without the services of Eugene Galekovic and Marcelo Carrusco, while the Phoenix were missing Albert Riera and Manny Muscat.
Reds Head Coach Josep Gombau, who is to take the reins of the All-Stars side, was also unavailable, so assistants Michael Valkanis and Pau Marti were tasked with stepping into the breach left by their much-lauded mentor.
Cirio scored the only goal of the match, the striker finishing -off Awer Mabil’s cross in the 31st minute with a low strike to the left of Phoenix ‘keeper Glen Moss.
It was a fitting finish to a play that was set-up with some great work from defender Tarek Elrich on the left flank.
The match continued in dour fashion after the main-break, with both sides unable to break down their opposition.
Wellington began to increase the pressure as the minutes wound down, however, pressing forward against the United defence in search of an equaliser.
The visitor’s best chance came in the 91st minute when they set-up for a corner kick and the resulting rebound off the post fell to Wellington’s Nathan Burns, who forced a great save from Reds goalkeeper Paul Izzo.
Time ran out for the Phoenix, however, allowing United to progress to the Round of 16, with their opponents to be determined by the draw on August 21.
Valkanis praised the efforts of his under-strength side after the match and predicted big things from the lesser-known players throughout the rest of the FFA Cup and the coming A-League season.
With both competitions overlapping, depth will be more important than ever in the Reds charge towards success.
What do you think of Adelaide’s performance against Wellington?