Thriller draw, I reckon
By Corinthian (Paul Green):
Hyundai A-League – Season 11 – 2015/2016 – Round 13
7:40pm, Friday 1 January, 2016 – Parramatta Stadium
Western Sydney Wanderers FC 0
Adelaide United FC 0
This New Year’s Day meeting brought together two of the best-performing teams in the A League, right now and in front of a decent crowd for a holiday, in excess of 16,000 patrons certainly got their moneys-worth, even if there were no goals to celebrate, at least not after those that appeared legitimate, or could have come from penalty-kicks, had been ruled out.
All the same, it was a great contest and a thriller of a 0-0 draw by anyone’s reckoning.
There were individual stars and there was good teamwork, especially from two well-drilled defences.
There really was very little between the two teams after a full-on 90-plus minutes of action and while the Wanderers maintained their sustained unbeaten run and remain poised at, or near, the top of the ladder, the Adelaide side, still finding their feet after taking on a new coach this season, are beginning to really hit their straps.
One of the reasons for the visitors overcoming their early season doldrums has been the return to fitness of Socceroos’ understudy goalkeeper and the Reds long-time captain, Eugene Galekovic.
The veteran keeper didn’t put a foot wrong here and while he didn’t make a string of superlative saves, he was as safe as houses in tipping over the bar any on-target shot that threatened to spoil his clean sheet, as well as commanding his area as well as he ever has.
He was beaten once, though the manner in which he allowed the ball to enter his net suggested that he knew that referee, Ben Williams, would rule an infringement after Wanderers’ Italian striker, Federico Piovaccari, had tangled with Adelaide’s central defender, Dylan McGowan, as the pair jostled their way into the six-yard area.
Piovaccari had run onto a nicely-weighted, nodded-on, through- ball from in-form Romeo Castelen, to drill the ball low past Galekovic, in decisive fashion, but the successful strike was quickly ruled out.
It could have even been a penalty, but the pushing and shoving appeared to have been mutual, hence the goal not standing.
Adelaide were looking especially dangerous early in the piece, Bruce Djite posing his usual physical threat, but with the Wanderers’ defence so polished these days and so settled, that he was finding it very hard to make an impression.
Wanderers’ captain, Nikolai Topor-Stanley, has developed a fine understanding with his partner at the back, Alberto Aguilar, to plug any gaps and the two wide defenders, the two Scotts, Neville and Jamieson, so effective going forward, are equally efficient in performing their defensive responsibilities.
It was therefore difficult, not only for Djite, but the more stylish Marcelo Carrusca and Isaias, or even for Pablo Sanchez when he replaced Djite at the hour-mark.
Michael Marrone, making a number of lung-bursting runs down the right flank, was making a nuisance of himself too and might easily have earned a penalty for his team in the 19th minute, a strong tackle from Topor-Stanley bringing him crashing to ground inside the Wanderers’ penalty area, but despite many expecting a spot-kick to be awarded, Ben Williams demanded the victim regain his feet instead.
This was a game when, once again, Castelen shone, with his incisive runs and skilful possession-game, but he had others showing fine form alongside him as well, Piovaccari shouldering a load of work up front, thus freeing up others to look for openings, Mark Bridge solid as usual, Dimas and Andreu running the show as much as they could against a strong Adelaide midfield presence.
While Piovaccari was out of luck again when close to goal and looking a constant threat, it was only his second game back after an injury-enforced lay-off and he does look the part, despite not scoring again here.
Adelaide may still languish outside the top-six, but surely it’s going to be only a matter of time before they break through into the play-off spots.
They’ve taken some time to adapt to their new coach’s urgings, following the departure of Josep Gombau after a couple of good seasons under the Spaniard.
Their new Spanish coach and former star player at the helm, Guillermo Amor, may have appeared post-match accompanied by a translator, but he seemed to field the questions posed to him in English with little hesitation and made himself understood more than adequately.
No doubt he’s learning fast about what’s needed in the A League and has apparently managed very well to get his ideas across to his players, who’re looking ominously fluent again, after their tardy start.
Adelaide did take the game to the Wanderers, early on, no doubt hoping for an early breakthrough, but with the Wanderers’ keeper, Andrew Redmayne, making some good early saves and the home back-four ever vigilant, it was never going to be easy for the Reds to break through, the waved-away penalty claim aside.
The second-half saw a more measured approach from the Reds, who began to show their own steel at the back, as Galekovic came into his own.
An 82nd minute free-kick from Carrusca was directed narrowly over the bar, while the same player had also set up Djite nicely in the 54th, with a neat cross, but the robust recipient was also off-target, though not by much.
The Wanderers sent on Dario Vidosic for Castelen in the 66th and Brendon Santalab for Piovaccari in the 78th, but the most important substitution came in the 87th when the returning Golgol Mebrahtu took over from Scott Nichols, who’d had his usual strong game in behind the front-three.
Having learned later that Mebrahtu had been practicing free-kicks in training, with excellent results, it should have come as no surprise when the fit-again forward stepped up to take one on the edge of the box, two minutes into stoppage-time.
Any dying moments’ lapse of concentration from Galekovic would have proven fatal, as Mebrahtu’s shot was perfect and looked set to find its way just under the crossbar, but the agile and alert Adelaide keeper wasn’t going to be fooled so late in the game and expertly tipped the ball over, to ensure his side walked away with a clean sheet and a well-deserved point.
Western Sydney Wanderers FC: 20. Andrew REDMAYNE (GK), 12. Scott NEVILLE, 17 Alberto AGUILAR, 4. Nikolai TOPOR-STANLEY (C), 3. Scott JAMIESON; 6. Mitch NICHOLS (114 Golgol MEBRAHTU 87), 21. 8. Dimas DELGADO 18. ANDREU; 7. Romeo CASTELEN (10 Dario VIDOSIC 66), 9. Federico PIOVACCARI (11 Brendon SANTALAB 78), Mark BRIDGE
Subs Not Used: RGK 1. Dean BOUZANIS, Jacob PEPPER
Yellow cards: Dimas Delgado 45+1, Scott Neville 81; Red cards: Nil
Coach: Tony Popovic
Adelaide United FC: 1. Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk) (c); 2 Michael MARRONE, 4 Dylan MCGOWAN, 23 Jordan ELSEY, 21 Tarek ELRICH; 8 ISAIS; 10 Marcelo CARRUSCA (17 Mate DUGANDZIC 86), 18 James JEGGO (14 George MELLS 90); 16 Craig GOODWIN, 11 Bruce DJITE (7 Pablo SANCHEZ 66) , 9 Sergio CIRIO
Subs not used: 20 John HALL (rgk), 3 Iacopo LA ROCCA
Yellow cards: Jordan Elsey 73; Red cards: Nil
Coach: Guillermo Amor
Referee: Ben Williams
Assistants: Owen Goldrick and Greg Taylor; Fourth Official: Matthew Cropper
Points and ratings
3. Nicolai Topor-Stanley (WSW)
2. Dylan McGowan (AU)
1. Romeo Castelen (WSW)