Adelaide United illustrated immense determination to record a plucky come-from-behind 2-2 draw against Melbourne City at Coopers Stadium on Saturday night.
Trailing 0-2 with 13 minutes remaining, the Reds looked well and truly out of the contest against the defending champions.
But United found another gear once Stefan Mauk halved the deficit from close range, following Kusini Yengi’s shot against the upright.
Ben Halloran then scored an equaliser in dramatic fashion in the 90th minute, chipping Tom Glover on the wing and stealing a point.
It was the seventh goal Halloran has netted against City since moving to Adelaide in 2018, once again proving a thorn in the Victorian outfit’s side.
What went right. What went wrong.
What went right: Reds’ resolve
Adelaide’s mettle was certainly put to the test. Down 0-2 with time running out – against the reigning champions, the Reds could probably be forgiven for accepting what seemed like an inevitable defeat. But to their credit that thought never crossed their minds and they continued to scrap and compete. However, Connor Metcalfe should have put the game to bed in the 77th minute when he thighed over Leckie’s cross from close range and a minute later that miss proved extremely costly.
As Halloran eloquently said in his post-match interview, they just needed a bit of individual brilliance to ignite the spark. The flame was then well and truly lit after Yengi’s scintillating run before his drive ricocheted off the post and the goalkeeper, enabling a simple tap-in for Mauk. From there on it was virtually one-way traffic as the momentum shifted entirely in the Reds’ favour. Indeed, the leveller occurred via a mistake from Tom Glover, but the 29-year-old still had plenty of work to do. It was his anticipation reading Glover’s eyes and body language, and subsequent pressure which forced the turnover. Halloran held his composure to execute a perfectly-weighted chip over the gloveman for the Reds to escape with a point. That passage of play is indicative of the high-pressing game Veart is looking to implement.
The crowd of 7,017 also played its part, providing an extra lift to help Adelaide get something out of the clash. If the Reds are to make the top six this season, Coopers Stadium will again need to be a fortress.
What went wrong: City dangerous in wide areas
Completely stifling a City attack boasting an abundance of Socceroos pedigree was always going to be a near impossible task. Carl Veart in his pre-match press conference labelled the attacking trio of Jamie Maclaren, Mathew Leckie and Andrew Nabbout as the best front three in the competition. Leckie and Nabbout in particular were dangerous throughout the match, especially the latter who provided the assist for Maclaren’s opener and then dispatched a curling finish with the outside of his right foot that nestled just below the top corner.
The width they provided allowed City to play more long balls than usual to counteract Adelaide’s high press. Post-match, Veart suggested Nabbout was given a bit too much time and space on the ball and was able to take full advantage of the situation with that outstanding, outside of the right foot finish.
What went right: Yengi a handful
While Yengi was on target last week against Perth Glory, he was rather restricted and struggled to consistently get touches on the ball. Against City, he challenged experienced centre-backs Nuno Reis and Curtis Good with his ability to present and create half a yard for himself. His dummy runs also enabled Mauk to work off of him and further remained a physical presence, winning two fouls.
The 22-year-old striker was rather unlucky not to have scored his maiden goal at Coopers Stadium when he was denied by the woodwork, but fortunately Mauk was on hand. It was his mazy run which had the City defence back-pedalling as they struggled to close him down. Veart was also impressed with his performance, believing Yengi is developing into a very good talisman.
What went wrong: Two goals conceded, didn’t win the game
Obviously. Giving the opposition a two goal head start is never good regardless of how clinical and well taken they may be. The Reds created an uphill battle for themselves although some might suggest there was a hint of offside on the first City goal. Regardless, it wasn’t given and it didn’t look like the referee was too concerned either. As mentioned, Nabbout took his chance well and the Reds were in a two goal hole.
United took their time breaking down what was a City back four, a move away from their usual back three. While ultimately they did breakthrough and it was great to come away with one point, three points is better. The Reds have opened the season with two draws and will need to find a way to win games soon as the cliché of all clichés rings true; there are no easy games in the Isuzu UTE A-League.
What went right: Attacking introductions make impact
Both Craig Goodwin and Mohamed Toure were lively when brought on as substitutes during the second-half. The pair were introduced in the 58th and 70th minute marks respectively and were the impetus in facilitating the comeback. While not directly involved in the goals, they offered another dimension in attack and gave the City defensive unit something else to think about. At times it resembled a 4-2-4 formation as Adelaide were pushing to get something out of the match. The extra firepower immediately manufactured more opportunities. Although seemingly in a comfortable position, City suddenly had to be mindful of their directness and Veart’s decision to roll the dice ultimately paid dividends.
It was also encouraging to see Goodwin continue to get match minutes too. Veart has declared the 29-year-old is fully fit to start, but has so far eased him back following offseason ankle surgery. It will be interesting to see how Veart utilises him over the next couple of weeks.
Saturday, 27 November
Isuzu UTE A-League 2021/22 – Round 2
Adelaide United 2 (Mauk 78’ Halloran 90’)
Melbourne City 2 (Maclaren 28’ Nabbout 61’)
Venue: Coopers Stadium