Adelaide and Wellington share spoils in 39C heat

by Jeremy Ruane:
with the compliments of

Hyundai A-League – Season 12 – 2016/2017 – Round 17
6:30pm, Sunday 29 January, 2017 – Hindmarsh Stadium

Adelaide United FC 2 (Mc Gree 7′, Mileusnic 80′)
drew with
Wellington Phoenix FC 2 (Doyle 11′, Krishna 37′)


Reigning Hyundai A-League champions Adelaide United and Wellington Phoenix survived 39 degree playing conditions to produce an entertaining 2-2 draw on January 29, in front of 8,313 fans at Coopers Stadium.

Common sense alone suggests that both this match, and the W-League fixture which preceded it, should have been deferred by anywhere up to three hours to allow the extreme conditions to dissipate to some extent.

But the call was made to play on at the scheduled time … and cases of heatstroke among both players and spectators was the outcome. Explanations required, please, Football Federation Australia – acknowledging the players’ health and safety needs via an additional drinks break in each half was akin to paying them lip service, and gave the impression that it mattered more that ‘the show must go on’.

And it did, in sixths, with a drinks break every fifteen minutes. Consequently, the first sixth of the match was very lively, with Adelaide catching the eye early. Sergio Cirio pounced on an error in the third minute and surged forward before playing the ball into the stride of Ben Garuccio.

His first touch failed him, allowing Glen Moss to save at his feet, but when Wellington’s goalkeeper was next called into action, it was to fish the ball out of his net in the seventh minute.

Adelaide opened the scoring with a fine move. Cirio again pounced on a loose ball and surged into the penalty area before chipping the ball across to Marc Marino. He controlled it before rolling the sphere into the path of midfielder Riley McGree, who fair hammered the ball home from eighteen yards.

United’s joy was short-lived, for within four minutes, Wellington were back on level terms, via an unlikely source. Fullback Thomas Doyle gathered the ball on the left and weaved his way past five challengers before thundering a twenty-yarder past the diving figure of Eugene Galekovic and into the net via the near post – 1-1, and how!

Cue the first drinks break, which effectively meant the game was being played in six fifteen-minute bursts. There was little to write home about inside the next fifteen minutes until late in the piece, when Adelaide regained the ascendancy.

Cirio’s wildly sliced shot – it went out for a throw-in after Roly Bonevacia had executed the perfect air-shot in aiming to clear the danger – was the catalyst for United to press on, and on the half-hour a jinking run by Marino culminated in his shot being blocked by Ryan Lowry, who was immense at the heart of Wellington’s rearguard.

From Garuccio’s resulting corner, Michael Marrone’s header was pawed out by Moss, who swiftly regathered the ball as a static Marino looked on. But within seconds of throwing the ball out, Moss watched it curling over his crossbar, Henrique’s attempt to restore United’s lead having been gifted him by Alex Rodriguez.

Following the next drinks break, Adelaide pressed again, with McGree and Henrique combining in the 36th minute for Cirio’s benefit. The midfielder burst past two rivals into the penalty area, only for Moss to bravely block at his feet, Jacob Tratt completing the clearance.

The ball went as far as Henrique, who fired in a cross which Bonevacia headed clear, sparking a Wellington counter-attack which saw them take the lead very much against the run of play.

Shane Smeltz received Bonevacia’s header, and instantly brought Costa Barbarouses into play. He raced forward before timing his pass to perfection to release Roy Krishna on an angled run through the inside left channel.

The speedster scooted clear of the chasing defenders before steering his shot beyond the stranded figure of Galekovic eight minutes before half-time – 2-1 Wellington, a goal which dumbfounded all bar the travelling support crew in the stadium.

After Bonevacia fired a twenty yard free-kick over the wall and, narrowly, the bar, United should have drawn level on the stroke of half-time. Moss’ poor clearance was swooped on by McGree, who promptly brought Henrique into play. His shot was parried by Moss, while those fired by McGree and Cirio, in the seconds following, were blocked by Wellington defenders.

Within seconds, Garuccio had let fly, but Moss saved again, low to his left. The ‘keeper then sparked another counter-attack from which Wellington should have increased their advantage.

Bonevacia’s timely through ball allowed Barbarouses to race through on goal with just Galekovic to beat. The ‘keeper forced the striker wide of the target, forcing Barbarouses to check and turn in-field in the penalty area, in search of a better-placed team-mate. His pass towards Smeltz was intercepted, however – a great chance spurned.

Players of both teams welcomed the respite of the dressing rooms at half-time, the visitors even more so, given some of their number were already showing signs of heatstroke.

Nonetheless, Wellington began the second spell brightly, and went desperately close to increasing their lead in the 51st minute. Smeltz caught Garuccio in possession and surged into the penalty area before feeding Barbarouses, who sidestepped a couple of opponents before angling in a low cross which Bonevacia, sliding in on the far post, only just failed to connect with under pressure from Marrone.

Seven minutes later, the Dutchman released Doyle down the left with a sweeping pass which allowed the fullback to charge downfield at pace before cutting inside, at which point the returned the ball to Bonevacia, who had Barbarouses to his right. But Bonevacia opted to shoot, his eighteen-yarder being parried to safety by Galekovic.

Adelaide, to this point, had been the more attack-minded team, but their creative approach play all too often lacked an end-product – Moss had largely been untroubled in goal, with Lowry, Andrew Durante and friends capably dealing with the bulk of United’s threats.

But as the visitors wilted in the heat, United began to make in-roads, and throughout the bulk of the last twenty-five minutes of play, only one team looked like scoring. And in the 69th minute, Adelaide squandered a glorious chance to do so.

Substitute Ryan Kitto – later to hobble off the park with a hamstring injury with United having already used their quota of replacements – dashed to the by-line down the left before pulling the ball back invitingly for Cirio. From six yards, he somehow contrived to slice the ball wide of the target.

Six minutes later, Cirio attempted to make amends for this miss by turning Durante this way and that en route into the penalty area. His low cross was blocked to safety by Lowry, at the expense of a corner.

Garuccio’s delivery was cleared as far as Isaias, whose gorgeously weighted ball over the defence found Cirio ghosting in behind them. From the by-line, he pulled the ball back to Iacopo La Rocca, who contrived to hit the crossbar from eight yards.

The goal Adelaide had been threatening finally materialised ten minutes from time. Garuccio’s free-kick over the wall was tipped onto the post in fine fashion by Moss, but the rebound ricocheted across goal. Despite the despairing efforts of Lowry to prevent him from doing so, substitute Nikola Mileusnic squeezed the ball home on the far post to level the scores, 2-2.

Both teams went all out for a winner in the time remaining, which included seven minutes of stoppage time. Adelaide’s first attempt saw Moss keep out Isaias’ twenty yard free-kick, to which Wellington responded via a Michael McGlinchey raid which saw Rodriguez only just fail to get on the end of the substitute’s cross.

Back came United, McGree releasing Mileusnic down the left. The equalising goalscorer cut inside, only to be well contained by Lowry. Mileusnic eventually managed to engineer some space in which to shoot from twenty yards, but Moss was right behind the effort.

Adelaide, by now playing with ten men, came desperately to clinching all three points in stoppage time. Cirio was first to react after Tratt failed to head a cross to safety, with the playmaker standing up Durante in the area before squeezing a shot past both the diving figure of Moss and – only just – the far post.

It was a close call for Wellington, who responded with the final attack of, in the heat, a highly entertaining match. Krishna combined with substitute Hamish Watson for fellow replacement Guilherme Finkler, but Galekovic turned his shot to safety, ensuring this contest would conclude on even terms, 2-2.

Match details

Crowd:  8,313

Adelaide United FC:  Galekovic (gk); Marrone (Kitto, 67), McGowan, La Rocca, Elrich; McGree, Isaias, Cirio; Henrique (Mileusnic, 46), Marino (Mells, 54), Garuccio

Wellington Phoenix FC: Moss (gk); Tratt, Durante, Lowry, Doyle (booked, 84); Barbarouses (McGlinchey, 67), Lia, Rodriguez, Krishna; Bonevacia (Finkler, 67), Smeltz (Watson, 86)

Points and ratings

Match  7/10
Pitch  8/10

Referee      Peter Green   6/10

Player points:
3. Lowry
2. Isaias
1.  McGree