Melbourne City FC revived their finals challenge and dealt Adelaide United's title hopes an unexpected blow by registering a surprise 3-1 win at AAMI Park on Friday night.
City were winless and goalless in three matches going into this clash and they trailed at half-time against Josep Gombau's men, who could have claimed top spot ahead of Melbourne Victory and Perth Glory had they won.
Instead it was John van 't Schip's makeshift side who overcame a host of absentees to claim all three points and return to the top six at the expense of reigning champions Brisbane Roar.
0-1 (Pablo Sanchez 32')
Michael Marrone advanced down the right and came inside before feeding Sergio Cirio, who dinked a cute pass through to Sanchez. The Spaniard beat the offside trap and slotted a cool finish past Tando Velaphi.
1-1 (Safuwan Baharudin, 52')
From Aaron Mooy's dipping corner, the ball was inadvertently steered by the head of Tarek Elrich into space at the back post, where Safuwan dispatched it into the roof of Eugene Galekovic's net to open his account for his new club.
2-1 (Josh Kennedy 55')
Robert Koren, pressed into service on the left of the attack, swung in an inviting cross for expert aerial marksman Kennedy, who rose high to score his first City goal by powering a header past the outstretched fist of Galekovic.
3-1 (Iain Ramsay 87')
The substitute was in the right place at the right time in the final exchanges, tucking home Massimo Murdocca's ball across the face of goal to seal the win and atone for some horrendous misses in recent weeks.
With nine minutes to go Patrick Kisnorbo lunged in and substitute Miguel Palanca went down anticipating contact that didn't appear to be made. The Spaniard appealed for a penalty and on another day it might have been given, but referee Alan Milliner got it right by ignoring the claims.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
The normally potent Reds forgot to pack their ammunition on Friday. City registered 19 shots to Adelaide's seven, with seven of the hosts' attempts on target compared to just two for the visitors.
In an otherwise innocuous passage of play midway through the first half, Marcelo Carrusca's 'roulette' to evade two markers in a tight area and create the space to play the ball off to a team-mate was a joy to behold.
Jack Clisby was seen limping after being withdrawn at half-time, a seemingly enforced substitution that saw City switch from 3-5-2 to 4-3-3, with Kew Jaliens and Safuwan moving to right and left-back respectively.
THE FINAL WORD
Having missed a chance to move top ahead of Perth Glory and Melbourne Victory, Adelaide will have to steel themselves for a trip to New Zealand to face Wellington Phoenix, while City are also on the road next weekend, when they take on the Central Coast Mariners.
Melbourne City: Velaphi, Jaliens, Chapman, Kisnorbo, Clisby (Williams 46'), Paartalu (Ramsay 78'), Mooy, Murdocca, Safuwan, Kennedy (Retre 88'), Koren.
Adelaide United: Galekovic, Marrone, McGowan, Elrich, Goodwin, Jeggo, Cirio, Carrusca (Kamau 86'), Sanchez (Watson 83'), Mabil (Palanca 59').
Scorers: Pablo Sanchez (32'), Safuwan (52'), Kennedy (55'), Safuwan (89')
Red cards: None
Yellow cards: McGowan (39'), Mabil (59'), Carrusca (66')
Conditions: 22 degrees, dry
Attendance: 7,345 @ AAMI Parkcomments