Dramatic end to 6-goal thriller as Western put big dent in ends Reds’ finals hopes in stoppage time

Western United led 2-0, then trailed 3-2 before snatching a late, late point through full-back Connor O’Toole’s 94th-minute equaliser in a gripping 3-3 draw with Adelaide United on Tuesday night.

A stirring comeback performance from the Reds, inspired by two Hiroshi Ibusuki goals, saw the visitors come from two goals down to lead in the second half, when Nestory Irankunda fired Adelaide into a 3-2 lead.

Matthew Grimaldi and James Donachie had given Western a 2-0 lead but it was O’Toole who popped up late to bring the home side back on level terms in the fourth minute of extra time as the two sides shared the spoils in a six-goal draw.

Adelaide had pulled to within three points of the top six on the live table as the game clock ticked past 90 minutes but settling for a draw resulted in a five-point gap to sixth-placed Western Sydney Wanderers at the end of the action in Tarneit.

All teams have two games to play in the regular season; Adelaide face Central Coast Mariners and Brisbane Roar on the road to round out the campaign, and will need to take maximum points while hoping for other results to go their way in order to sneak into the six.

Giuseppe Bovalina and teammate Ibusuki competed with one another to meet an early Zach Clough free-kick swung into a dangerous area for Adelaide, and the crossed wires led to Bovalina heading wide from close range.

Ben Garuccio had Western’s best chance of the opening 10 minutes, but was denied by a smart save from James Delianov at his near post.

A sharp attacking move from Western fed through Grimaldi, then Lachie Wales and the winger’s cut-back cross to the edge of the box led to Riku Danzaki’s smart touch and strike which cannoned off the crossbar.

Soon after Western took the lead and it was a gift from Delianov that led to the opening goal.

The Reds keeper attempted to play short to Ethan Alagich but Grimaldi swooped in to steal possession and fire into an unguarded net.

Slack defending from Adelaide led to the home side’s second goal of the night – and it was a rare strike from defender Donachie that doubled the advantage.

Danzaki was all alone at the front post to meet a near-post delivery and his flick-on found Donachie all alone to score just his fifth goal in 181 Isuzu UTE A-League games.

Then came a moment of controversy as Adelaide United were awarded a penalty before referee Jack Morgan decided to reverse his initial decision after reviewing the incident on the pitch side monitor.

Irankunda beat Western keeper Tom Heward-Belle to the ball in the box and went down under contact but after pointing to the spot, referee Morgan was advised by VAR to take another look.

But Adelaide had another shout for a penalty deep into first-half stoppage time and this time a VAR review helped the visitors earn a spot kick.

It was adjudged Connor O’Toole had handled the ball after Zach Clough’s shot on target; Morgan returned from assessing the incident pitch side to give O’Toole a yellow card, Adelaide a penalty and set the scene for Ibusuki to halve the deficit in Tarneit.

Adelaide’s late goal in the first half set the stage for a rampant second-half comeback which began 12 minutes after the restart, when Ben Warland’s header from a corner struck the post and invited Ibusuki to brush home his second of the night from close range and bring Adelaide back level at 2-2.

Stefan Mauk flashed a first-time shot just wide of the bottom-left corner shortly after Ibusuki equalised as the Reds got well on top in Tarneit.

Adelaide didn’t let the nearly moment turn to frustration; five minutes after Ibusuki made it 2-2 the Japanese striker turned provider for Irankunda, playing the in-form teenager into the box who put the away side on top with a composed finish into the bottom-right corner.

Adelaide looked set to take all three points after Irankunda’s 62nd-minute strike but after holding the advantage for more than half an hour, conceded to O’Toole’s 94th-minute finish at the back post as the two sides settled for a point apiece.