Prior to gameday, Kevin Muscat said the plan was to entertain. It took two to tango, but it did not disappoint as both Victory and Adelaide put on an exciting show in the seven-goal spree on Saturday.
Both teams equally contributed to the spectacle, making it a match of the year contender. Both had the idea to get forward and to do it quickly and it was refreshing to see as we have seen plenty of matches where teams opt to play safe. However, it may have led to Adelaide’s eventual downfall. While Josep Gombau’s philosophy leans to a more patient build-up, the pace of the game may have found them out.
Much like the last time these two met, Victory left winners partially due to their cooler heads and big-time players like Mark Milligan and Archie Thompson. It was a vastly improved Adelaide compared to the one that last visited, but Victory’s pressing and attacking pressure eventually earned three points.
The evidence is in at least two of the goals, scored by Gui Finkler and Archie Thompson. Victory’s forward half set up the mistake by pressing Adelaide in their penalty area. Boogard was forced into a decision, which ended up being the wrong one, forcing the turnover that gave Finkler ample time to score.
Thompson’s goal came out of his own hard work to push forward and pressure Eugene Galekovic, who didn’t clear the ball. What Gombau and co. had to be mindful of was space in behind being exploited, and for that split second, they were powerless to stop it. Granted, Galekovic botched his attempted clearance entirely, but had the pressure not been on, it would not have happened.
Much attention in the earlier to mid-season was directed to Victory’s inability to finish and its inconsistency, which came as a result of a busy New Year period. But in their last three matches (vs. Central Coast, Muangthong United, Adelaide) Victory have put nine in the back of the net. The line-up has resettled somewhat and the first team is benefiting as a result. It has been widely accepted just how good Kevin Muscat’s side is in attack when they are on and the system works, this match gave a glimpse of it.
The concern is still the defence, who leaked three goals they should not have. Nathan Coe looks jittery and out of form, coming off his line multiple times when he probably shouldn’t have. He wasn’t directly responsible for two goals, but being beaten at the near post for the third goal was ridiculous. The less said about Pablo Contreras’s role in the third goal conceded the better.
Two of Cirio’s goals came from outstanding work from Bruce Djite and Fabio Ferreira. Djite beat Nick Ansell hands down, leaving Coe having to rush off his line to force Cirio into a quick decision, and he made no mistakes with it. For the opening goal, Ferreira’s low cross pierced Melbourne’s defence as Cirio timed his run to perfection and nailed the simple finish.
But Adelaide need to be credited for their approach, had it not been for a couple of defensive mistakes and howler from Eugene Galekovic, they would have left winners. Sergio Cirio scored one of the most opportunistic trebles ever seen, bobbing up in the right places at the right time with great finishes on three occasions.
The questions are now for Adelaide; will the usual fast-paced hectic nature of some finals games leave them exposed? How will their style fare when the heat is on even more?
Attention now turns to tomorrow night’s Asian Champions League group stage fixture against the Chinese superpower Guangzhou Evergrande, while Adelaide have a short turnaround themselves when they host Wellington Phoenix on Thursday.