The Reds roll on, while Roar were wasteful. Here are five things we learnt from Friday night’s first Elimination Final at the Adelaide Oval.
Fit-again Isaias quietly crucial as Carrusca battles
The availability of a Spaniard and an Argentine dominated the agenda in the lead-up to the game and while both were passed fit, unexpectedly it was the former who arguably had a bigger influence at Adelaide Oval.
As early as the third minute Isaias, having shaken off an ankle knock to start, executed an inch-perfect tackle to dispossess Thomas Broich at the top of the Reds’ box. With less than 20 minutes to go he was doing the business at the other end, dispatching an exquisite through-ball to release Pablo Sanchez in on goal, only for his countryman to send a shot wide from an acute angle.
Carrusca meanwhile, the focal point of the Adelaide attack when fit and firing, hadn’t played since late March and it showed. The former Estudiantes man was short of his best, catching the eye with a dipping long-range strike early on but struggling to keep pace before being replaced by Awer Mabil mid-way through the second term.
Goodwin delivers on the big stage
Anyone who saw a young Craig Goodwin make his A-League debut for Melbourne Heart in 2011 and collect the Man of the Match award in a derby against Melbourne Victory will know he isn’t afraid of the big stage.
It’s taken him a while to earn regular first-team action, moving to the Newcastle Jets and then returning to his native South Australia.
And after an impressive campaign with the Reds in 2014-15 he really stepped up when it counted on Friday, dispatching a sumptuous free-kick into the top right corner of the Brisbane goal, past an unsighted Jamie Young to open the scoring. Take a bow, Craig.
Broich too good to be offered gifts
German maestro Thomas Broich has talked the talk in recent weeks, extolling the virtues of the Queensland’s side attacking, pressing philosophy.
He duly walked the walk in this elimination final, harassing Dylan McGowan high up the field and gratefully seizing on an under-hit back-pass to rush into the area and slot an expert equaliser past Eugene Galekovic.
The veteran had already been a central figure and one of the Roar’s most dangerous players in the opening exchanges.
He didn’t need a second invitation to level the scores at 1-1, ensuring the visitors wouldn’t surrender their crown without a fight.
Jamie Young’s heroics to no avail
The understudy to regular Roar goalkeeper Michael Theo was a figure of fun as he struggled to play out from the back earlier this season but the journeyman from England’s lower leagues excelled on Friday night, making two crucial saves in the second half, the first low down to keep out Dylan McGowan’s effort and the second an acrobatic dive to tip a Sergio Cirio strike onto the bar and over.
Unsighted and a little slow to move for Goodwin’s free-kick in the first half, he responded well and kept his team in it, until Awer Mabil delivered the killer blow with three minutes left.
Young got a hand to the substitute’s fierce close-range shot but couldn’t keep out.
Reds survive but must improve
The FFA Cup winners have struggled to rediscover their best form in recent months and it was the same story in this must-win game.
Sergio Cirio excelled on the right of the attack but the defence looked shaky throughout and only escaped due to the profligacy of the visitors’ forwards, as chance after chance went begging for the Roar in the second term.
It took a combination of Cirio’s guile and the youthful exuberance of Mabil to force the winner late on and Josep Gombau will know his team were let off the hook.
Not only will they face tougher challenges in the semi-finals, they will also be on the road.
Perhaps the task of facing higher-ranked opponents in Sydney FC away from home will galvanize and focus the Reds.