Adelaide United FC’s unbeaten start to the season has ended at the hands of the Central Coast Mariners in a 1-0 result at Bluetongue Stadium.
A Nick Fitzgerald goal in just the 2nd minute proved the difference to give the reigning champions their first win of the new campaign and leave the Reds once again without a point to show for their efforts against a team it has not lost to nine straight times.
Once Fitzgerald gave the Mariners the advantage, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the Reds as a well organized and compact Central Coast unit seemed content to absorb United’s high possession style.
Absorb it did as the Reds struggled to find cracks in the Mariners defence, while giving the home side chances on the counter attack.
The signs looked promising for the Reds to break their Mariners hoodoo at the outset as Sergio Cirio sent a warning shot inside 50 seconds, his curling effort flying high and wide.
But that encouragement was dented when they found themselves behind less than a minute later when the Central Coast scored in their first foray into the Reds’ half. Mitchell Duke fed the ball through to Fitzgerald who turned in on his left from outside the penalty area, firing a shot that went through a sea of legs and past a diving Eugene Galekovic.
Despite the early setback, United began to settle and link up, Spanish duo Isaias and Cirio heavily involved in trying to manufacture a reply. But while the Reds were enjoying more of the possession, it was the Mariners who were having the more clear cut chances, former Adelaide United playmaker Marcos Flores in the thick of it as his cross was narrowly missed by Duke before he hit a shot over the post himself from 18 metres soon after.
Given a start, Brent McGrath was trying to stamp his impact on the game but the 22 year old forward was agonizingly away a couple of times from finishing off some promising Reds build ups and delivery from both wings.
In the 42nd minute Cirio went close as he flashed a shot wide that had Justin Pasfield worried, but it was Fitzgerald who would be kicking himself for not adding another just before the break. With just Galekovic to beat and time to take aim, the youngster smashed his shot onto the crossbar, although Galekovic could be credited getting just enough of a reflex touch to alter the ball’s direction.
The Reds captain was called upon again 23 minutes into the second half, making a more trademark save to keep out a Michael McGlinchey free kick, before United were let off the hook in the 72nd minute when a totally unmarked Trent Sainsbury could not find the back of the net with his header from a corner.
Reds Coach Josep Gombau then gave a senior debut to Youth signing Ryan Kitto, the midfielder from local club Birkalla who has impressed at training, coming on for Fabio Ferreira with 12 minutes left.
When Mariners substitute Mile Sterjovski saw his shot hit the post and Matt Simon miss with the rebound, it may have suggested that the Reds were destined to snatch a late equaliser, but despite their good fortune and a fine individual effort from Cirio that resulted in his final touch going just wide, they could not find the goal to salvage a point.
Central Coast Mariners 1 (Fitzgerald 2’)
Adelaide United FC 0
Referee: Peter Green
Crowd: 9,109 @ Bluetongue Stadium
Central Coast Mariners line-up: 1.Justin PASFIELD (GK), 3.Joshua ROSE, 5.Zachary ANDERSON, 7.John HUTCHINSON (c) (6.Brent GRIFFITHS 90+1’), 8.Nick MONTGOMERY, 9.Mitchell DUKE, 10.Marcos FLORES (21.Mile STERJOVSKI 78’), 11.Nick FITZGERALD (19.Matt SIMON 67’), 14.Michael McGLINCHEY, 15.Storm ROUX, 16.Trent SAINSBURY
Substitutes not used: 12.Liam REDDY (GK), 24.Jesse CURRAN
Yellow Cards: Rose 84’, Hutchinson 87’
Red Cards: Nil
Adelaide United starting line-up: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (GK) (c), 3.Nigel BOOGAARD, 4.Jon McKAIN, 5.Osama MALIK (14.Cameron WATSON 76’), 8.ISAIAS, 9.Sergio CIRIO, 13.Steven LUSTICA, 18.Michael ZULLO, 21.Tarek ELRICH, 22.Fabio FERREIRA (25.Ryan KITTO 78’), 24.Brent McGRATH (17.Awer MABIL 59’)
Substitutes not used: 20.Paul IZZO (GK), 23.Jordan ELSEY
Yellow Cards: Malik 67’
Red Cards: Nil