Adelaide United coach Josep Gombau believes his side’s calculated second-half risk to switch to a three-man defence was pivotal in Saturday night’s come-from-behind 2-1 win over the Western Sydney Wanderers at Coopers Stadium.
Thoroughly outplayed by the competition’s cellar dwellers early, the Reds’ task was made tougher still when boom defender Osama Malik hobbled off injured.
But Malik’s exit had a silver lining with Gombau reshuffling things tactically, bringing on Craig Goodwin for Malik at half-time and leaving Tarek Elrich on the left, Dylan McGowan centrally and Michael Marrone on the right to mind all the defensive matters.
It was a risky ploy but the upshot was numerous attacking forays which produced two second-half goals, the 92nd-minute clincher set up by a Goodwin cross to Sergio Cirio.
“After the first half when we went 1-0 down we needed to take a risk,” Gombau said.
“We put three in the back and the game changed.
“The first half, tactically, Western Sydney beat us.
“For us it was difficult to find the path inside. It was hard watching this and we needed to do something.
“We decided to open it up and put three in the back. This is where we won the game.
“To play three in the back can have a lot of risk. If you don’t do well the other team can kill you.
“In the second half we could have scored 3-4 goals.”
Adelaide’s cause was assisted by the 83rd-minute send-off of Wanderers stopper Matthew Spiranovic following an altercation with Pablo Sanchez.
Spiranovic earned his second yellow following the infringement, which Gombau said was justified
“They are a team that defends well and aggressively,” he said.
“For them it’s part of the game.
“For what he did, I think yes (it deserved a red card).”
It wasn’t all positive for the hosts though with Malik, in the 42nd minute, writhing in pain and clutching his right leg after a slide tackle attempt.
He tried to run it off but didn’t take the field in the second half.
Malik is in doubt for this Friday’s away clash with Melbourne City which, along with Nigel Boogaard, leaves the Reds short-changed down back and likely to front with three in defence again.
“He (Malik) did his ankle,” Gombau said.
“He’s a player who normally, if something happens to him, wants to keep working, keep going.
“It’s what he tried but afterwards he felt it was impossible to run.
“I don’t know if he will be available next week.
“Now (with Malik and Boogaard in doubt) we have maybe just one central defender available for next week.
“This means it (three-man defence) is something we may need to do.”