Adelaide United has lost in the most heartbreaking of circumstances after falling 5-4 on penalties against premiers Perth Glory in a thrilling Semi-final at HBF Park on Friday night.
The Reds never say die attitude saw them fight back from two goals down when Baba Diawara and Ryan Kitto forced extra-time with the latter scoring in the final minute of injury time to make it 2-2.
Scott Neville then put the Glory back in front in the first-half of extra-time, but after the re-start Michael Marrone ensured the drama did not end there with a thumping header of his own.
That meant the dreaded penalty shootout. But despite a valiant effort from Paul Izzo, where he saved three penalties, it was not enough as the Glory prevailed after United squandered three-straight spot-kicks, and their season over.
Marco Kurz made one alteration to the side which defeated Melbourne City in the Elimination Final last weekend. Nathan Konstandopoulos came into side for the first time in five games with Nikola Mileusnić moving to the bench and pushing Ben Halloran back out onto the wing.
Adelaide started the brighter of the two sides early into proceedings and in fact dominated possession, while suffocating Glory in their own-half.
The Reds’ high-pressing game they implemented prevented the hosts from playing out from the back and forced turnovers.
Craig Goodwin was dangerous and made a marauding run down the left flank and his back-post cross was met by the head of George Blackwood.
In the 15th minute, Perth had their first genuine attempt after Dino Djulbic crashed a header which was saved onto the underside of crossbar by Paul Izzo. For a second it seemed the ball had maybe crossed the line, but replays quickly confirmed that was not the case.
Adelaide continued to create problems for Perth and Goodwin and Halloran combined with a sequence of one-twos which ended in the former delivering an inviting cross across the face of goal.
However, unfortunately for United, the ball was just too far ahead of the onrushing Konstandopoulous in the six-yard box for a certain goal.
And the half-chance proved a decisive turning point as the momentum shifted.
Castro and Chris Ikonomidis performed a slick move which culminated in the latter playing through the 36-year-old and he snuck his near-post finish beyond Izzo on 29 minutes.
Adelaide conceded midway through the second-half, after a swift counter-attack culminated in Ikonomidis again being the provider for Castro. The ex-Getafe man dribbled his way into the box before his shot took a kind ricochet and past Izzo.
But United did not give up, a testament to the resistance shown by the players.
Diawara scored in opportunistic fashion from a corner as the Glory could not clear their lines.
That made it 2-1 with nine minutes of regular time left, and another corner in the 94th minute would again be the Glory’s Achilles heel.
It went the distance. Unbelievable effort from the boys. Congratulations to Perth.
— Adelaide United (@AdelaideUnited) May 10, 2019
Goodwin’s recycled cross from an initial corner was headed only as far as Kitto and his emphatic strike levelled the score, evoking scenes of jubilation with seemingly the final play of the match.
For the second consecutive week, the Reds would be going to extra-time. Despite the physical and emotional toll they kept believing, but not without Perth returning serve through Neville’s header.
However, in the second-half of extra-time Adelaide struck from behind again via an unlikely source.
Marrone, arriving from centre-back, headed in an excellent cross from Kitto.
With the score locked at 3-3 penalties would be needed to decide one of the most memorable games in Hyundai A-League Finals Series history.
Goodwin audaciously slotted a Panenka penalty to begin the shootout. Juande responded before Jordan Elsey scored and then two-goal hero Castro had his penalty saved to give Adelaide the advantage.
But after it got to 3-2 in United’s favour, Isaías’ penalty was saved allowing Liam Reddy to equalise.
After it finished 4-4 from five penalties each, sudden death ensued with Perth ultimately holding their nerve, albeit with Izzo stopping a further two penalties.
15’ | CHANCE: Djulbic connects with Davidson’s cross and his header is tipped onto the underside of the crossbar by Izzo but the whole ball does not cross the line.
29’ | GOAL: Castro beats Izzo with a near-post finish after a nifty one-two with Ikonomidis, who played the Spaniard through.
74’ | GOAL: Castro makes it 2-0 when his shot takes a fortuitous deflection past Izzo.
81’ | GOAL! The corner pinballs in the area amongst several bodies before falling to Diawara who pokes his finish home.
90+4’ | GOAL! With the last kick of the game Kitto equalises after capitalising on a poor headed clearance from a corner to rifle his finish into the bottom corner.
104’ | GOAL: Davidson’s cross is met by the head of Neville at the back stick.
115’ | GOAL! Marrone restores parity with five minutes left launching himself into Kitto’s cross and his header beat Reddy.
Friday, 10 May 2019
Hyundai A-League 2018/19 – Semi-Final
Perth Glory 3 (5) (Castro 29’ 74’ Neville 104’)
Adelaide United 3 (4) (Diawara 81’ Kitto 90+4’ Marrone 115’)
Venue: HBF Park