A stunning Awer Mabil goal and an inspired performance by goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic has seen Adelaide United snatch a 1-0 win over Sydney FC at a rain-soaked Allianz Stadium on Saturday night.
Despite being second best for much of the contest, the Reds snatched all three points thanks to Mabil’s cracker just eight minutes from the end.
The Reds had their skipper to thank for the victory though, Galekovic pulling off a string of fine saves throughout to keep his side in the contest.
The result sees Adelaide move to the top of the A-League – at least until Wellington play Melbourne Victory on Sunday – and well in the hunt for the Premier's Plate, while Sydney’s chances appear remote now with three rounds left.
0-1 Mabil (82’) – A long ball forward by Galekovic was misread by the Sydney defence, allowing Mabil to pick up possession on the right wing. He drove at Nikola Petkovic and cut back inside on his left foot before arrowing a shot into the far corner which gave Sky Blues ‘keeper Vedran Janjetovic no chance.
Seven minutes before half-time, Alex Brosque got in behind the Adelaide defence and was surging towards the box only to be hauled down from behind by Nigel Boogaard. Referee Chris Beath opted to show the Reds defender a yellow card when perhaps it could have been red. While Brosque was still some 25 yards from goal, there wasn’t another Adelaide defender close to him and his next touch may have been a shot on goal. It was a huge decision at a pivotal moment that went the visitors' way and they made the most of it.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Sydney dominated the first half, so much so that Adelaide didn’t register a shot during those 45 minutes, the first time the Reds have ever gone a half of football in the A-League without having a single shot.
It was the fourth time in the last five matches that Sydney FC have failed to score against Adelaide, while the Sky Blues have now managed just one win in their last eight home games against the Reds. Adelaide have now joined Sydney FC as the two sides with the most clean sheets this season, level on eight.
With Sydney FC dominating for much of the 90 minutes, Adelaide needed their skipper to stand up big and that’s exactly what Galekovic did. He made a number of incredible saves in both halves, denying Alex Brosque on at least three occasions with some superb reflex stops and tremendous agility. The Socceroos gloveman played the conditions perfectly, opting to punch crosses away instead of trying to catch the ball in the greasy conditions. At times it seemed it was just one man standing between the Sky Blues and a big win. His save with his feet to deny substitute George Blackwood was just brilliant.
Sydney were dealt a blow midway through the second half as influential midfielder Mickael Tavares limped off with what appeared to be a groin injury. After grabbing Adelaide’s goal, Mabil was forced off just three minutes later with a left leg injury.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
With Socceroo defender Tarek Elrich suspended, Reds boss Josep Gombau opted to play Osama Malik at left-back and not Craig Goodwin, who played their last weekend. It was a surprise move and one that didn’t really work, with most of Sydney’s attacks coming down that flank via Bernie Ibini. The winger, playing his 100th A-League match, terrorised Malik with his pace and delivered some fantastic crosses but unfortunately his team-mates couldn’t apply the finishing touch.
THE FINAL WORD
That was the Sky Blues’ final home match of the regular season, with three straight away games to end the campaign, starting with a long trip to Perth to take on the embattled Glory next Friday night. Adelaide have a tricky match also, hosting finals-chasing Brisbane Roar at Coopers Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
Sydney FC: Janjetovic, Ryall, Faty, Jurman, Petkovic, Tavares (Grant 64’), Dimitrijevic, Ibini, Brosque, Naumoff (Stambolziev 67’), Janko (Blackwood 77’)
Adelaide United: Galekovic, Marrone, McGowan, Boogaard, Malik, Isaias, Jeggo, Cirio, Kamau (Mabil 60’) (Watson 85’), Djite, Goodwin (Palanca 67’)
Scorers: Mabil 82’
Red cards: none
Yellow cards: Jeggo 10’, Boogaard 38’, McGowan 50’, Isaias 74’, Marrone 78’, Malik 90’, Cirio 90+2’
Conditions: 18C, Wet
Attendance: 11,585 @ Allianz Stadium