Adelaide United bowed out of the Asian Champions League last night after a frenetic encounter in Tashkent with their held high after a pulsating game, in which they took the lead twice but were pegged back both times by a dogged Bunyodkur team that managed to over-run them deep into extra time.
There are nothing but positives to be taken from the Reds’ ACL campaign.
It was like watching the Adelaide of old, circa 2008, during Aurelio Vidmar’s reign when they gave the competition a real shake by going all the way to their final where they were ultimately defeated by an exceptional (and very expensive) Gamba Osaka team.
When John Kosmina took over the reigns from Rini Coolen mid-way through last season, he inherited a dysfunctional squad whose confidence had been crippled. To coach what is essentially the same squad to a Champions league quarter-final is a feat worthy of praise.
Things could’ve been very different had Adelaide taken their chances at Hindmarsh in the first leg. It is no exaggeration to say they could have been 4-0 up at half time, and Nigel Boogaard’s red card was also certainly a turning point that allowed Bunyodkur to claw their way back into the game.
Perhaps Bunyodkur’s match sharpness just gave them the edge over the Reds?
They are 21 games into their season, whereas Adelaide have had to make do with sporadic ACL games since their last Hyundai A-League game in March as their only high-intensity matches. That match-fitness is a significant factor, and one that only an extended A-League program can remedy.
It is interesting to note that the 4-1-4-1 formation that Kosmina has replaced Coolen’s much-vaunted 4-3-3 system with, is very similar to the one that Aurelio Vidmar used back in 2008.
One question that gets asked regularly is why are Adelaide so successful in Asia, yet can’t seem to replicate that form in the A-League?
My answer is that Asian teams do not seem to be blessed with flair or inventiveness and appear to struggle when faced with a very organised back-line.
Although the same criticism can arguably be directed at several A-League teams, the difference is the familiarity that other Australian teams have with the Adelaide squad, in comparison to Asian teams who will have rarely seen them in live action.
Specific highlights for me from the Bunyodkur game included Iain Ramsey’s second goal in two matches against the Uzbeks. He looks to be really coming of age and could be part of a really useful two-pronged wide attacking threat, with a resurgent Dario Vidosic on the other wing.
Whether Bruce Djite or Sergio Van Dijk is deployed as the lone striker, they will certainly benefit from such exciting wing-play.
The cameo provided by the wonderfully named Jeronimo Neumann suggests that he may provide the flair from central midfield that has been absent since Marcos Flores departure.
Eugene Galekovic continues to amaze with one stellar performance after another.
He made several great saves during the game, and it’s cruel that the Bunyodkur equaliser to bring the game back to 2-2 was one he will feel he should’ve done better with.
But after all the stops he has made as the Reds last line of defence, he should not beat himself up about it. He would’ve felt like he was in a coconut shy for periods and the law of averages meant that he wouldn’t be able to stop everything.
Surely the upcoming East Asian Cup qualifiers in December should see him add more to his four Qantas Socceroo caps.
Although it’s disappointing to see Adelaide knocked out of the competition, they should still hold their heads high as the only Australian team to have made it this far, and they have done it twice.
The competitive nature of the games played will see them hit the ground running for the A-League season, which will be real advantage of the other teams who have laboured through a long pre-season with only friendly matches under their belt.
If their key players stay fit and everyone buys into what Kossie is trying to do, then there is no reason why Adelaide can’t be dark horses to be in the mix at the end of the season.
Their departure from the ACL may actually be the start of a new exciting journey for the Hindmarsh faithful.
The views expressed in this article are purely those of the author and do not reflect those of FFA or the Hyundai A-League.
Got tickets to see your team in action this weekend? Click here for tickets
to all the matches.
The official Hyundai A-League 2012/13 fantasy football game and tipping competitions are also open - so sign up now.