A frenetic final five minutes has decided the outcome of Friday nightís blockbuster clash between Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory at Adelaide Oval, with both sides playing out a 1-1 draw.
It took until the 85th minute for what to that point had been a dour struggle for Sergio Cirio to put the home side 1-0 up, only for Fahid Ben Khalfallah to equalise just three minutes later from a corner.
[quote]The first A-League fixture at the newly re-vamped Adelaide Oval had been cause for celebration in the city of churches and the public certainly responded, with the crowd of 33,126 breaking the record for a soccer match in Adelaide.[/quote]
The first A-League fixture at the newly re-vamped Adelaide Oval had been cause for celebration in the city of churches and the public certainly responded, with the crowd of 33,126 breaking the record for a soccer match in Adelaide.
The game itself failed to reach those heights, however, with the two teams tentative approach to the contest coupled with a very fast playing surface contributing to the stop-start nature of the majority of the match.
The call of a number of soft fouls also didnít help, with Gui Finklerís booking for brushing the side of Isaias's face an overreaction from referee Peter OíLeary.
United couldnít capitalise on the weight of possession and chances Ė the Reds finished the game with the advantage in total shots (14-4) and corners (9-5) but lacked the precision to make those statistics count.
It was a scrappy game from the start, with both clubs wary of the other and unable to find the intensity they showed in their respective round one encounters.
The hard Adelaide Oval surface also proved difficult, with the players frequently misjudging passes and the timing of runs.
It seemed the match would be destined for a draw as the clocked continued to tick down, until Tarek Elrich set up Cirio with five minutes of regulation time remaining.
Elrich provided a perfectly waited through-ball on the wing that the Spaniard controlled with two touches before slamming it past Victory keeper Nathan Coe and into the left-hand corner of the net to put the Reds 1-0 up.
The lead was short-lived, however, with the equalizer coming just three minutes later when Finklerís perfectly waited corner eluded the United defence and fell to Khalfallah, who cracked a great volley past a despairing Eugene Galekovic.
Bruce Djite had one final chance to snatch victory for the Reds in the final minute of added time but his left-foot shot missed the target and the home side had to be content with sharing the points with Melbourne.
Both sides will be relatively happy with a result that leaves them occupying the first two positions on the A-League ladder, albeit so early in the season.
Both Josep Gombau and Kevin Muscat will no doubt concede they have plenty to tweak when it comes to getting their charges playing to the utmost of their ability, but points are points and both will take them and look forward to next week.
For Adelaide, thatís a home fixture against Perth Glory next Sunday, while the Victory square-off against Melbourne City in next Saturday nightís derby at Etihad Stadium.
What did you think of Unitedís performance against the Victory?