Adelaide United FC went a significant way to setting the wheels of its season back in motion with a gutsy 1-1 draw against Melbourne Victory at Etihad Stadium tonight.
An 82nd minute strike from Fabian Barbiero cancelled out Archie Thompson’s 59th minute goal to give the Reds a valuable point, but the result could easily have been a different story if not for another outstanding display between the posts from goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic.
The gloveman reeled off a number of superb saves to keep the Reds in the contest and leave the teams to record their first against each other draw since December 2007.
After a week of intense pressure following the disappointing home loss to the Central Coast Mariners, Head Coach Rini Coolen was proud of the way his charges responded.
“For us a point in an away game is good, it was a great effort from the boys, but what I’m even happier about is that we played some better football,” Coolen said.
“We know the pressure is there, it is part f the job and part of the situation and we have to handle that. We have to be professionals and stick together and work hard and believe in the things that we are doing, and that’s what we did.”
Coolen sprung a positional surprise by starting Iain Ramsay at left back, but it was the Victory that almost sprung a surprise on the score board in the opening minute when Harry Kewell beat the offside trap only to be denied from giving the home side the lead by a quality reflex save from Galekovic with his left leg.
A Carlos Hernandez free kick moments later had United hearts in mouths again but again the Reds survived, the match being played at a cracking tempo early on.
The Reds’ first real chance fell to Barbiero in the 22nd minute but he would have been disappointed as he blasted his left footed effort well over the bar.
Tempers threatened to boil over when Zenon Caravella and Kewell were involved in an altercation, the incident quickly attracting players from both sides as tensions ran high in what was a clear sign of two teams desperate for three points.
The Reds were remaining defensively sound and a much more resilient unit than the one that let in three goals in the opening 45 minutes against the Mariners a week earlier.
But their accomplishment of keeping the Victory at bay to half time almost came unstuck when Kewell capitalised on a mistimed attempt at a clearing header from Nigel Boogaard, the Victory’s marquee man sending a clever chip over Galekovic as he noticed him off his line, but the United keeper produced a brilliant finger tipping save to send the ball wide.
Coolen injected Dario Vidosic into the game at the start of the second half in place of Osama Malik, and the smooth moving midfielder gave the Reds an instant lift as he showed little sign of discomfort from the back injury that kept him out last week.
United was starting to assume control and a superb solo run from Djite had the Victory defence worried as they narrowly avoided conceding a penalty when the Reds striker went down in the box.
But just as the tide of the game appeared to be turning in the Reds’ favour, Thompson latched onto a Fabio cross from the left, beating Galekovic with his header as he found space in between two United markers.
Down a goal, the Reds’ character would again be questioned and Galekovic was determined to make sure the flood gates did not open as he produced an impressive save low to his left to prevent Thompson from adding a second in the 69th minute.
The Reds’ endeavour was still there as they refused to yield. Djite, Iain Ramsay and Sergio van Dijk combined to almost give Vidosic a sight on goal, and then in the 82nd minute United’s persistence paid dividends.
Having tried his luck from range a number of times throughout the match, Barbiero was eventually rewarded when he was given room on the edge of the penalty area to drive a left footed shot just inside the post and out of the reach of Victory keeper Ante Covic.
Cameron Watson, Caravella and van Dijk were all involved in the build up as Barbiero netted his seventh Hyundai A-League goal and the Reds’ first in 307 minutes of football.
Melbourne had two late chances to steal all three points, however Watson managed to clear a goal bound effort from substitute Marco Rojas off the line, while a tantalising Kewell ball across the goal face failed to find a Victory foot on the end of it.
Adelaide United’s next match is against Gold Coast next Friday night at Hindmarsh Stadium.
Melbourne Victory 1 (Thompson 59’)
Adelaide United FC 1 (Barbiero 82’)
Referee: Peter Green
Crowd: 16,562 @ Etihad Stadium
Melbourne Victory line-up: 21.Ante Covic (GK), 2.Matthew Foschini, 3.Fabio, 4.Petar Franjic, 6.Leigh Broxham, 10.Archie Thompson, 13.Diogo Ferreira (11.Marco Rojas 76’), 14.Billy Celeski (8.Grant BREBNER 46’), 16.Carlos Hernandez, 22.Harry Kewell, 23.Adrian Leijer (c)
Substitutes not used: 18.Danny Allsopp, 20.Lawrence Thomas (GK)
Yellow Cards: Nil
Red Cards: Nil
Adelaide United line-up: 1.Eugene Galekovic (gk), 2.Osama Malik (10.Dario Vidosic 46’), 3.Nigel Boogaard, 4.Jon McKain (c), 5.Daniel Mullen (14.Cameron Watson 66’), 7.Zenon Caravella, 9.Sergio van Dijk, 11.Bruce Djite (22.Milan Susak 89’), 17.Iain Ramsay, 18.Fabian Barbiero, 21.Francisco Usucar
Substitutes not used: 20.Mark Birighitti (gk)
Yellow Cards: Barbiero 33’
Red Cards: Nil