Committed Reds edge Victory
Adelaide United have given interim boss Michael Valkanis his first win in charge and taken a huge step towards securing a finals position after defeating fierce rivals Melbourne Victory 1-0 in a hot-blooded spectacle at Hindmarsh Stadium on Friday night.
Valkanis had to watch his side snap a three-match losing streak and claim a vital three points from behind closed doors after being ejected by referee Jarred Gillett in the 41st minute for expressing his anger towards the official after United had five players booked within in the first half.
The 38-year-old's ejection inspired the hosts though, as the deadly Jeronimo Neumann returned from suspension to head in the eventual winner just seconds later.
Jeronimo's strike was enough for Adelaide, who held on in a second-half that saw Victory full-back Adama Traore sent off for a rash challenge.
A 12,025 strong crowd – Adelaide's best attendance at Hindmarsh since the 4-2 victory over Victory in December – was in full voice as the Reds pressured Victory with fire in their belly.
It took only three minutes for former Reds cult hero Marcos Flores to feel the wrath in his second visit to Adelaide in a Victory shirt when he was floored by his Argentine compatriot Marcelo Carrusca.
United's aggressive approach did not impress Gillett who blew his whistle for numerous infractions in the opening minutes.
With Adelaide spirited, winger Iain Ramsay should have given his side an early lead on five minutes when he made a dreadful mess of a point-blank opportunity with the goal gaping at his mercy.
Carrusca whipped a deadly ball across the face of Melbourne Victory goalkeeper Nathan Coe's six-yard area which panicked the visitors' defence as Dario Vidosic did his best to make a contest.
Vidosic's challenge forced the ball to pop up to Ramsay who was lurking at the back post, but the 24-year-old knocked his shot onto the bar and over with Coe well beaten.
Chances were few and far between for either side but the cards were not, in particular for the hosts, who had Jon McKain and Osama Malik booked.
The cards would not stay in Gillet's pocket as Cassio and Jeronimo were also cautioned before Victory hitman Archie Thompson was forced from the ground after pulling up gingerly in the 33rd minute.
Jeronimo almost edged the Reds in front when a header dropped short to the 26-year-old, but the former Barnsley forward prodded wide.
Yet another yellow card followed for the home side when Ramsay's name was entered into the book for dissent after he was flattened by Coe in the box.
Adelaide's fifth booking of the night drew a frustrated reaction from Valkanis as Gillett halted proceedings to speak with his fourth official before ejecting the caretaker coach.
In a brave response to their coach's expulsion, Adelaide took the lead through Jeronimo to bring the Hindmarsh crowd to its feet.
Ramsay jinxed and teased the Victory defence before crossing from the by-line to pick out Jeronimo, who rose high over Leigh Broxham to head in the opener.
After the break, Vidosic almost made Coe pay for a calamity when the gloveman slipped while rushing out and threw the ball straight to the Soccerooo.
But the marquee star shot right back into the custodian's grasp.
Melbourne had worked their way back into the encounter but were fortunate not to fall further behind on the hour after Reds defender Antony Golec and Jeronimo combined.
Golec pushed on from defence before dispatching a clever, raking long ball that cleared the visitors' rear-guard and released Jeronimo, who looped the ball over the onrushing Coe from outside the box, only to strike the upright.
Traore's straight red 15 minutes from time dented Melbourne's hopes of a comeback, although they fought valiantly with a man down to try and snatch a point.
Vidosic could have sealed the result in the 85th minute when he broke free over the halfway line with only Coe to beat, but the 25-year-old was thwarted by the keeper.
Substitute Melbourne forward Connor Pain and creative maestro Marco Rojas had Adelaide hearts in mouths on the cusp of full-time, but neither could find an equaliser.
Adelaide United 1 (Jeronimo '42)
Melbourne Victory 0
Bet365.com Man of the Match: Jon McKain
Kept Melbourne's midfield quiet with a dominant performance that typified Adelaide's attitude in their grafting win.
Crowd: 12,025 @Hindmarsh Stadium