Adelaide United FC was again left to rue what might have been as the Reds found themselves on the end of a 3-0 defeat to Melbourne Victory.
In another typically fascinating game between the two traditional rivals that was again not without its host of twists and turns, it was the home side that made the most of their chances, although the Reds did not help themselves in their attempt to win their first game at Etihad Stadium since 2006 as missed opportunities coupled with a host of mistakes came back to bite them.
Playing with an extra man advantage for the last 45 minutes after Melbourne defender Adrian Leijer was sent off on the stroke of half time for a second bookable offence, the result could have been a different story had Reds forward Sergio Cirio not seen his 66th minute penalty saved by Victory keeper Nathan Coe.
Had the Spaniard scored it would have made it 1-1 and given the Reds all of the momentum, however it would prove to be a two goal turnaround as Archie Thompson pounced to make it 2-0 less than 90 seconds later. Mitch Nichols then added a third as he made the most of a long ball from Coe that created confusion at the back and it was as good as game over.
Not that you can make excuses once both teams cross the white line but the Reds’ cause was not helped by the late withdrawal of Jon McKain with a stomach bug, while Cassio was forced from the field with a leg injury after just 12 minutes, although his substitute Steve Lustica came on and played his best game for the club.
As was the case when the Reds conceded early away against the Mariners, the Victory were also going to be difficult to break down once Kosta Barboureses gave the home side a 14th minute lead following a costly Reds turnover in midfield.
Stung by the goal, once the Reds settled they started to be more confident on the ball and dominate in midfield as they produced some quality interplay but were again unable to inflict a killer blow.
The Reds’ big break came when Leijer was rightly dismissed for holding back a charging Cirio run on the stroke of half time giving them 45 minutes to try and break down a 10-man Melbourne.
When referee Ben Williams rightly awarded a penalty as Jeronimo was clipped from behind by Victory’s Chilean defender Pablo Contreras, it appeared they had found their way back but Coe had other ideas as he made a fine save to his right to keep out Cirio’s spot kick.
Thompson then made the most of Coe’s inspirational save to capitalise on the counter attack before Nichols managed to get the telling touch to Coe’s long clearance that Eugene Galekovic, Nigel Boogaard and Isaias could not deal with.
United Coach Josep Gombau introduced Bruce Djite and Awer Mabil for the final 20 minutes, and while the Reds continued to manufacture some superb passing and combinations to split the Victory defence, they were not rewarded for their intent as Coe reeled off two fine saves to deny Lustica and Mabil shots late on.
Playing their fourth of five games in six away from home, it was again a similar story for Gombau, whose influence on the Reds’ playing style is becoming more evident as the weeks go by, but unfortunately the results are not coming with it.
While the final score line finished one sided in Melbourne’s favour, on the balance of play Gombau did not think it was a true reflection of the contest.
“In the last 20 minutes of the first half and the first 20 minutes of the second half we played very well,” Gombau said.
“I am unhappy because we lost but I think one detail changed the game. If we score the penalty I think the game changes.”
“We miss the penalty and a minute later they score…I think the final score is not reflective of what the people at the stadium saw – this is my opinion. Of course the team that scores more goals gets the three points but I think we made chances to get a better result.”
As Gombau continues to implement his unique football style at the club, he insists both he and his players still have the utmost belief in what the Reds boss is trying to do, but at the same time he can fully understand frustration of supporters.
“I know this is difficult because people think you are losing but we need to keep going and to work to erase the mistakes. We need to keep believing in what we are doing and I believe results will come,” Gombau said.
“I am not worried but I am more worried for the fans than for myself or the team. The fans always want to win, but for me and the team I am not worried because we are on the way. Today we lost 3-0 and somebody who doesn’t understand what we are doing or the football we want to play can think we played a bad game, and I disagree. We made mistakes and that meant we lost.”
“Of course we are losing and people can think that we’re going very badly but I am happy with the work that the team is doing. This week we had 22 attempts at goal, they didn’t go in but we created. The players need to be more ruthless in front of goal, it’s something we need to improve, but we are making the right things.”
“We are building something totally different from the way they played last season and it is something that you need time for.”
Melbourne Victory 3 (Barbarouses 14’, Thompson 68’, Nichols 76’)
Adelaide United FC 0
Referee: Ben Williams
Crowd: 20,064 @ Etihad Stadium
Melbourne Victory line-up: 1.Nathan COE (GK), 2.Pablo CONTRERAS, 3.Adama TRAORE, 5.Mark MILLIGAN (c), 6.Leigh BROXHAM, 9.Kosta BARBAROUSES, 10.Archie THOMPSON (7.Gui FINKLER 87’), 14.James TROIS (I4.Nick ANSELL 45+2’), 15.Mitch NICHOLS (11.Connor PAIN 81’), 16.Rashid MAHAZI, 23.Adrian LEIJER
Substitutes not used: 20.Lawrence THOMAS (GK), 24.Scott GALLOWAY
Yellow Cards: Leijer 35’/45+1’, Broxham 45+1’, Ansell 45+2’, Contreras 66’, Milligan 66’
Red Cards: Leijer 45+1’
Adelaide United starting line-up: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (GK) (c), 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 5.Osama MALIK, 6.CASSIO (13.Steven LUSTICA 13’), 7.JERONIMO (17.Awer MABIL 71’), 8.ISAIAS, 9.Sergio CIRIO, 10.Marcelo CARRUSCA, 18.Michael ZULLO (11.Bruce DJITE 71’), 21.Tarek ELRICH, 22.Fabio FERREIRA
Substitutes not used: 23.Jordan ELSEY, 30.John HALL (GK)
Yellow Cards: Zullo 23’, Elrich 75’
Red Cards: Nil