Luckless Sydney FC were forced to settle for a contentious 0-0 draw with Adelaide FC after acting captain Nikola Petkovic slotted a free kick that was disallowed in a controversial, entertaining Friday night blockbuster at Coopers Stadium.
The Reds continually peppered the Sky Blues' goal and had by far the better of general play before Petkovic was cruelly denied. Compounding his misery, he almost goaled with a follow-up hit moments later.
As unlucky as the Serbian defender was, the match was very much on United's terms for most of the night, but Sydney's lauded defence, led by outstanding custodian Vedran Janjetovic, was repeatedly up to the task.
Against the trend of overwhelming albeit unfulfilled Adelaide dominance, Petkovic fired a 35m dead-ball rifle past unsuspecting United keeper Eugene Galekovic in the 68th minute.
It all happened so quickly that the crowd was left stunned in a silent trance as the visitors began to celebrate, before referee Alan Miliner, despite seemingly being in position, declared the goal invalid as he hadn't whistled for resumption.
Petkovic was desperately unlucky.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
It was a case of close but not good enough for the Reds in attack as the Blues, in the 32nd minute, demonstrated precisely why they are the premier defensive outfit in the land.
The charging Awer Mabil's low drive was cleared by last man Chris Naumoff before Craig Goodwin and Segio Cirio's follow-ups were deflected away coolly.
The Reds had 11-2 shots in the first half (and 17-11 overall), including those three bites at the cherry, but Sydney's defence simply refused to buckle.
A magical chain of possession involving United's foreign legion in the 16th minute showcased just why Adelaide play as attractive a brand as anyone.
Starting from Galekovic on the last line and followed by some Isaias class, Sergio Cirio demonstrated sublime control and pace, sliding through a low ball which Marcelo Carrusca latched onto inside the area.
Denying Sydney a single possession across the entire pitch, the sequence ended with Carrusca's one-touch hit from the left side that was brilliantly saved by Janjetovic, which proved the story of the night.
After coming in for some physical niggle from former team-mate Sasa Ognenovski, Reds spearhead Bruce Djite subbed out at half-time with a quad injury.
After battling ankle and calf problems already the season, it is a worrying sign for United.
THE FINAL WORD
Adelaide's record at their home fortress remains intact, now 12 matches and almost 12 months since losing on South Australian soil. They created numerous opportunities, which will force Wellington Phoenix to be at their absolute best next Saturday.
For the Blues, A-League supremacy remains on the line when they host Melbourne Victory next Saturday at Allianz Stadium in another marquee match-up, likely to be played in front of a bumper crowd.
Adelaide United: Galekovic (c), Boogaard, Malik, Isaias, Cirio, Carrusca, Djite (Marrone 45'), Goodwin, Mabil (Kamau 82'), Jeggo, Elrich
Sydney FC: Ryall (Bojic 88'), Ognenovski, Petkovic (c), Gameiro (Smeltz 73'), Dimitrijevic, Ibini-Isei, Naumoff (Gersbach 62'), Antonis, Janjetovic, Janko, Abbas
Red cards: Nil
Yellow cards: Ognenovski (20'), Elrich (33'), Boogaard (71'), Janko (77'), Ryall (87'), Isaias (90'+1), Ibini (90'+3)
Conditions: 34°C, dry
Attendance: 16,0153 comments