Gibbs steals win for Sydney FC

A dramatic 82nd-minute penalty goal to Joe Gibbs helped Sydney FC secure a thrilling 4-3 victory over Adelaide United in Saturday’s National Youth League encounter at Burton Park.

A dramatic 82nd-minute penalty goal to Joe Gibbs helped Sydney FC secure a thrilling 4-3 victory over Adelaide United in Saturday’s National Youth League encounter at Burton Park.

Seemingly in complete control with a 3-1 advantage shortly after half-time, the Sky Blues saw their lead suddenly evaporate when United goaled twice in the space of five minutes to level proceedings at 3-all in the 58th minute.

For much of the second half thereafter, a draw looked on the cards and appeared a just result given Sydney’s early impetus and skill level and Adelaide’s spirited refusal to surrender.

But it became apparent the Baby Reds’ brave comeback would be in vain when skipper Jordan Elsey was handed a yellow for tripping Jordan Figon in the box.

United’s protests were in vain and – when former Central Coast junior Gibbs calmly slotted the spot-kick to the left of wrong-footed Adelaide custodian John Hall – so too were the Reds’ hopes of escaping with a draw.

The win boosted the morale in the Sky Blues’ camp, the Sydneysiders having been mired in quite a slump in recent times, dropping off the pace for the finals race with three losses and a draw from their past four matches before today.

It was Sydney’s first win in more than a month.

Conversely the result marked Adelaide’s first loss in almost a month and just their second defeat in their past eight games.

Otherwise, the majority of the opening salvo was played in Adelaide’s defensive third.

Sydney were denied from close quarters in the 14th minute when dangerous duo Figon and Powell were denied twice in quick succession by the Baby Reds’ scrambling defence after Hall had been caught out of position.

After some further close calls, the Sky Blues made the besieged hosts pay in the 20th minute when German-born striker Caleb Rufer found Blake Powell, how fired one across the turf and into the back of the net.

Less than a minute later, United almost equalised when Kenyan-born excitement machine Awer Mabil created an incredible opportunity out of nothing.

His athletic one-touch scissor kick directly from a corner had Sydney keeper Ryan Norval leaping high to pull in the save. It would have been one of the goals of the season.

The Sky Blues made it 2-0 when Rufer passed to Figon, whose quick deflection from close-range gave Hall no time to react and rifled through for a goal.

Sydney captain and dead-ball specialist Jared Lum looked dangerous every time he got near the ball, Hagi Gligor was defending grandly and weaving through traffic at will, while former Robbie Slater Medallist Powell was prominent.

Against the flow, United pegged one back in the 40th minute when Nicholas Mavromatis burst past Simon Valastro and finished in style when his shot went past Norval.

Mavromatis’ goal gave the home side some momentum, but they still trailed at the interval.

When the two sides came back out, the Sky Blues quickly first when Figon closed in, drew Hall to him, before flicking to Powell for the easy tap-in to make it 3-1 to the visitors.

Elsey scored a rare goal in the 53rd minute, when in traffic he knocked in a deflection from a superb, swinging free kick from striker Liam Wooding.

Less than a minute later, Evan Kostopoulos’ one-touch lofted hit went over the outstretched Norval, before thudding into the cross bar, Adelaide literally an inch away from equalising.

In the 58th minute, Wooding did just that, turning from playmaker to finisher.

He received a clever ball over the top from substitute Teeboy Kamara, which he trapped before thundering it past Sydney’s out of position defence to make it, incredibly, 3-all.

Powell almost bagged a brace when his 62nd minute strike was saved by a sprawling Hall, after Figon had left his man for dead, but aside from the odd close shave, 3-3 looked like being the final verdict before the contentious 82nd minute penalty against Elsey, scored by Gibbs.

Shortly after Gibbs’ deadlock busting penalty, Kamara, who came on after half-time, copped his second yellow card in the space of three minutes for retaliation and was given his marching orders by referee Daniel Elder, leaving the Baby Reds down to just 10 men.

Before play had even resumed after Kamara’s dismissal, Wooding was given a yellow card for arguing and showing dissent as the wheels looked like falling right off for United, in their final home fixture of the season.

They regrouped and conjured some late chances through Mabil and Scott Nagel in extra time, but, undermanned, the task proved too tough and the Sky Blues prevailed.

Adelaide United 3 (N. Mavromatis 40, Elsey 58, Wooding 58)
Sydney FC 4 (Powell 20, 48, Figon 31,Gibbs 82)
@ Burton Park, 04/02/2012