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Cornthwaite’s Corner: Round 4

Ryan Kitto celebrates with teammates after putting the Reds 1-0 up against Sydney FC in Round 3.
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No red card, all three points.

Where to start? Like 99 per cent of the people watching last Sunday afternoon, I was absolutely gobsmacked when I saw Daniel Elder brandish a straight red card to Hiroshi Ibusuki. A decision that brought me out of my slumber on a rainy Sunday on the couch.

When Ibusuki slid in, there was never a moment that I thought that would be the outcome for the Japanese import. Unfortunately for him, and for the team, it’s not the first time he’s been on the wrong end of an extremely soft decision. Remembering back to the Australia Cup game against Brisbane Roar, the striker was working back hard to try and regain possession, sliding in, and winning the ball with what I thought was a pretty fair tackle. But, like on Sunday, Ibusuki was dismissed much to his own shock. It cost him the opening round of the season. Thankfully he won’t miss the opening game at Coopers.

I think referees can get too focused on tackles being from behind or with studs raised. Each tackle must be adjudicated on an individual basis. Just because someone comes in from slightly behind or with the studs up does not always mean it’s dangerous or reckless. The referees always have to work within the rules, but there must be common sense and surely an effort to view the game through the eyes of the players or fans at times. How can one person, the man or woman in charge, see it so differently from nearly every other person watching the game?

Hiroshi Ibusuki’s red card, brandished by Daniel Elder, has been rescinded after Football Australia’s Match Review Panel deemed it an ‘Obvious Error’.

You can maybe forgive the ref for not getting a perfect view or for simply making a mistake, but the fact that the Video Assistant Referee didn’t overturn the call is the biggest issue. Are they afraid to embarrass the official in charge?

Don’t even get me started on “clear and obvious errors”. I’m not going to bang on about technology and terminology around the use of the video referee other than to say the decisions are just too stiff and without any wiggle room. It’s too rigid and there needs to be more consultation with players, past players, and coaches as to how they would like the games refereed.

Players’ safety must always come first and we have come a long way in a lot of areas. We can’t allow the game to become so sanitised. You only have to look at the AFL and at how it’s over-umpired to realise people want to see two combatants go fairly at one another in the true spirit of sport.

On Monday United submitted an “Obvious Error Application” with Football Australia to get the decision overturned. Unsurprisingly it took less than a day for Ibusuki to be cleared to play. Common sense prevailed but we must use this example to educate referees as to what is dangerous and what isn’t. Had Adelaide played the way they did with a full quota of players, I believe they would have walked away with a win.

What a gutsy performance from Carl Veart’s men! There’s a lot to analyse in that performance, but the only thing that really matters in the end is that each and every player was willing to roll up their sleeves for one another, the badge on their shirts, and the fans. We know this team is built of strong stuff, but like in Round 1 against Wellington, they weren’t looking for any excuses.

In the first half, with and without ten men, they were able to take away Sydney’s most dangerous players. After setting up last week’s win over Western United, Robert Mak and Joe Lolley were virtually non-existent. And after a week of reflection, United were far more up for the fight than they were a week earlier against Macarthur. The aggression in the contest was evident but, like Ibusuki’s tackle, it was controlled and fair.

The lineup was different, with Harry Van der Saag taking a more advanced position on the right side of the attack. Ben Halloran was drifting into wide areas as well as playing up top alongside Ibusuki at times. Adelaide looked really strong out wide with and without the ball, and it ultimately meant the Sky Blues’ most dangerous foreigners couldn’t get involved in the game.

Meanwhile, Ryan Kitto looked more like Lionel Messi as he slalomed his way past four or five defenders to put his side ahead.

But it was the time between the red card and half-time that was one of the most important periods of the game. If Sydney had pulled level before the break, it could have given things a different feel going into the second half.

Although the start of the second period wasn’t ideal, Adelaide never looked dead and buried – they were always in the game. They defended the box extremely well, blocking shots, putting their bodies on the line, or making huge saves.

I would have liked to see the midfield get a little higher, though. On occasions there were six across the back, but you still need to put pressure on the ball carrier.

Everyone played their part, but probably none more so than Craig Goodwin. On that performance alone, I think he’s sealed his place on the plane to Qatar as part of Graham Arnold’s Socceroos squad. Like Veart said post-match, Goodwin doesn’t need a lot of the ball to cause a whole lot of damage. When he cut in onto his right foot, he had basically one option and executed it to perfection. A perfectly flighted ball found Van der Saag sneaking in behind the defence to level the score.

Craig Goodwin provided an expert assist for Harry Van der Saag’s equaliser.

With a little more composure at the death, Nestory Irankunda could have stolen all three points and completed the snatch and grab I foreshadowed in last weeks Cornthwaite’s Corner.

After three tough away trips, the Reds are finally home where a renovated stadium, a fresh pitch, and the two new giant screens in opposite corners await them.This Coopers Stadium has a different feel to it and, believe me, this ground is going to be electric this season and beyond. I’ve slowly watched the new ground take shape and it feels like a real football stadium.

It’s tight and close to the action. It feels like the stands are on top of the pitch, and the players are going to love it. It reminds me of the packed boutique stadiums you see in Japan or Korea. Away teams have always enjoyed coming to play at Coopers and I don’t think that’ll change. Let’s hope United and the supporters don’t make them feel too comfortable.

Perth Glory had a great win on the weekend, beating the Mariners away from home. Like Adelaide, they’ve been nomads this season, but after picking up their first win, they’ll come to Coopers to try and spoil the party.

Glory are a work in progress with a completely different team from last season and it’s been showing. They’ve been pretty average to be honest, and with reports of issues with star striker, Bruno Fornaroli, it does feel like there are a few issues in the camp. That said, they have some very willing players who have a lot of pride. Aaron McEneff has two goals in two games and isn’t afraid to run beyond the towering number nine, Ben Azubel. He could be showing Adelaide the blue print for getting through the Perth defence.

One area the Reds should look to expose is the Glory’s centre backs. Whether they go with three or four at the back, Adelaide must look to get in behind. They are not blessed with pace and will look to follow the opposition striker. With Ibusuki free to play, he must look to come and get the ball to his feet. When he does, whoever is in the second striker role should look to get into the space and run beyond the last line and players in the wide positions can do the same. The third man run could unlock what might be a stacked Perth back third.

Hiroshi Ibusuki battling for possession against Ben Warland at the VALO Training Centre.

Adelaide have started all their games well this season and there were signs against Sydney the composure in the front third is slowly coming. An early goal kills away teams and this week it would get the home support up and about early.

For all Adelaide’s good work, they are still looking for a win. Back at home for the first time since last year’s semi-final, in the new Coopers Stadium, and against, in my opinion, one of the weakest teams in the league, they must go to sleep on Sunday night with all three points secured.

See you at Coopers!

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