Despite scoring three goals away from home, a second win of the season was not forthcoming for Adelaide United FC as it played out a controversial 3-3 draw with Melbourne Heart.
An enthralling game that began with both sides under the pump in the lead up saw the Reds jump out to a two goal advantage at half time courtesy of Steven Lustica and Sergio Cirio, before a stunning brace from Andrea Migliorini had the Heart back on level terms with 25 minutes remaining.
The home side then went ahead in controversial circumstances when referee Strebre Delovski initially hesitated before pointing to the penalty spot after adjudging Tarek Elrich to have handballed in the area even though the ball appeared to clearly bounce off the Reds defender’s chest.
Suddenly facing a deficit, it was up to the mercurial Marcelo Carrusca to restore parity as his 77th minute free kick deflected off the wall on its way into the back of the net. The teams would be made to be satisfied with a point in a game that the Reds again dominated but showed there is still much work to be done.
The game was only three minutes old when Lustica fired home his first goal in an Adelaide United shirt. Carrusca found Ferreira with room to work with on the right who in turn found Lustica in the area, the midfielder’s initial tame shot not only parried away by Andrew Redmayne. Given another bite of the cherry, Lustica was not going to waste the second opportunity as he gave the Reds the dream start.
A telling glove and interception from Eugene Galekovic ensured the Reds’ lead stayed in tact as he got the better of a one on one with Michael Misfud, and Galekovic’s heroics were then rewarded at the other end as United opened up Melbourne’s midfield again.
Cirio slided a through ball in for Jeronimo to pull the trigger, the shot forcing a save from an outstretched Redmayne but having followed up, Cirio was in the right place to hammer home the loose ball.
Former Red Iain Ramsay and then Patrick Kisnorbo both missed great chances to pull one back for the Heart, the Reds doing enough to wrest the momentum late in the half to hold their two goal buffer, while a crucial block from Kisnorbo prevented Cirio from possibly adding a third.
But in the space of 12 minutes of the second half, Migliorini fired the home side back into the contest with two goals straight out of the top drawer.
With the Heart pressing, they were then given a gift when the referee thought Elrich had handled the ball that was heading goal wards, David Williams making no mistake with the spot kick.
This time it was the Reds’ chance to show what resolve they had in the tank and Carrusca obliged, his flat free kick hitting the head of Massimo Murdocca to completely wrong-foot Redmayne and set up a gripping finale.
However, a there was to be no deciding goal, Reds Coach Josep Gombau stating post game that it was clearly an opportunity missed.
"We lost 2 points. The penalty they were given can be a telling decision in the game but when you're leading 2-0, to concede the two goals like we did, you can't do that," Gombau said.
"I don't want to use the penalty decision as an excuse, when you're 2-0 in front you need to keep this. Today our feeling is bad because you can't go losing these two points."
On the positive, after three straight games on the road, the Reds have four of their next five matches at home, starting with a clash against the top of the table Brisbane Roar on Friday night.
Melbourne Heart 3 (Migliorini 54’/66’, Williams 71’ (pen))
Adelaide United FC 3 (Lustica 3’, Cirio 15’, Carrusca 77’)
Referee: Strebre Delovski
Crowd: 6,002 @ AAMI Park
Melbourne Heart line-up: 1.Andrew REDMAYNE (gk), 3.Robbie WIELAERT (c), 6.Patrick GERHARDT, 7.Iain RAMSAY, 8.Massimo MURDOCCA, 11.Michael MIFSUD, 15.David WILLIAMS (21.Stefan MAUK 87’), 16.Aziz BEHICH, 23.Mate DUGANDZIC (14.Golgol MEBRAHTU 46’), 24.Patrick KISNORBO, 25.Andrea MIGLIORINI (22.Nick KALMAR 84’)
Substitutes not used: 17.Jason HOFFMAN, 20.Tando VELAPHI (gk)
Yellow Cards: Kisnorbo 74’, Behich 82’
Red Cards: Nil
Adelaide United starting line-up: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk) (c), 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 5.Osama MALIK, 7.JERONIMO (11.Bruce DJITE 60’), 8.ISAIAS, 9.Sergio CIRIO, 10.Marcelo CARRUSCA, 13.Steven LUSTICA (19.Jake BARKER-DAISH 72’), 18.Michael ZULLO, 21.Tarek ELRICH, 22.Fabio FERREIRA (17.Awer MABIL 59’)
Substitutes not used: 23.Jordan ELSEY, 30.John HALL (gk)
Yellow Cards: Malik 52’, Jeronimo 58’, Elrich 70’
Red Cards: Nil