Adelaide United has scored an upset victory over table leaders Brisbane Strikers in the clubs first NSL game. Hindmarsh Stadium was jammed packed with fans. The official attendance was a record 15,568. However Hindmarsh Stadium is an all seater stadium and the aisles were up to five deep and the stairs crowded with spectators who could not find a seat. Some estimates put the unofficial crowd as high as 18,000. The gates were closed before the kick off and several thousand fans were turned back at the gate.
The crowd was warmed up before the start with a plethora of pre match entertainment including spectacular fireworks, a visit from tennis star Leighton Hewitt and the obligatory mexican wave.
Carl Veart kicked off Adelaide United's season to the roar of the very parochial crowd. Several sloppy passes saw the Strikers immediately pressing on the United goal. For the first five minutes the Strikers took control of the game and were looking very dangerous against a nervous United.
But Vidmar and Aloisi quickly stamped their authority on the game and Adelaide United settled down. Passes started to find their mark for United while the Strikers were looking increasingly disturbed by the huge crowd.
By the 15 minute mark of the game Adelaide United was on top. Carl Veart was starting to find his feet up front after playing the last couple of season in defence or midfield. His great pass to Aurelio Vidmar split open the Strikers defence. Vidmar brought the crowd to its feet but his meek shot from 10m was well saved by Kearton in goals for the Strikers.
In the 21st minute United won the first of a series of four corners. United were looking very dangerous with the Strikers struggling to defend the corners. United defender Rees almost opened the scoring with a strong header that was blocked by Kearton.
In the 29th minute the hard running Kemp had a golden opportunity to open the scoring. This time it was Goulding who split open the Strikers defence with a pass to Kemp on the far post. Kemp slammed the ball goal ward from 5 metres only to be denied by Kearton.
Striker Carl Veart was looking very dangerous. In the space of ten minutes he put three headers just wide of the post. The only thing between Adelaide United and its first goal was the excellent form of Kearton in goals and player/coach McLaren at the back.
It took until the 38th minute for Adelaide United to get the goal it thoroughly deserved. Alagich put a through ball to Veart who made no mistake from 5 metres. The crowd erupted with a ferocity that brought back memories of the Socceroo goals against Iran and Uruguay at the MCG.
Adelaide United went into the break with a well earned 1-0 lead. The side had risen for the occasion and the Strikers probably considered themselves fortunate not to be at least a couple goals down.
Player/coach McLaren was probably the best for the Strikers in the first half but he succumbed to injury and did not come out in the second half. Surprisingly the loss of their best player had no effect on the Strikers who started the second half strongly.
Within a couple minutes of the restart Veart almost doubled the score against the run of play. His curling shot from 30m cannoned off the apex of the goalpost and the crossbar to the relief of the stranded Kearton.
Only 10 minutes into the second half and several of the United players were looking weary. The Strikers were getting on top though the hard working Aloisi, Kemp and Vidmar were very effective at closing down the Strikers midfield whenever they pushed forward. At the back for United Goulding, Rees and Valkanis looked comfortable while Alagich was outstanding.
In the 60th minute the Strikers had their best opportunity of the game. United goalkeeper Scarsella got down well to save a long range shot only to spill the ball into the path of the oncoming attacker. Scarsella recovered well and brilliantly saved the rebound shot.
The Strikers continued to push forward but were finding it difficult to create any opportunities. In the 68th minute Kosmina was forced to make several changes to brighten up his tiring midfield. Lozanovski made way for youngster Pellegrino and the excellent and hard working Kemp, suffering from cramp, was replaced by Terminello.
In the 75th minute a tiring Veart was substituted for youngster Saric as Adelaide United continued to get players behind the ball and wind down the clock. The Strikers worked the ball around the field but were just not finding any openings in the United half. The huge crowd became increasingly active as 90 minutes approached. The noise level rose to a roar as the fourth official signalled 3 minutes of extra time. The final three minutes were magnificent as the crowd was anticipating a historic victory and the noise level sent shivers down many a spine.
Finally Craig Zetter blew the whistle for full time and the noise level at Hindmarsh Stadium reached a crescendo. Players, officials and the fans celebrated. It may not have been a classic game but this is a day that will be long remembered by South Australian soccer fans.
Adelaide United had many strong contributors. Alagich and Valkanis had excellent games and were ably supported by Rees and a slow starting Goulding. Aloisi, Vidmar and Kemp controlled the midfield while Lozanovski always looked threatening with his passes. Up front Veart was a match winner. Best for the Strikers was Kearton and McLaren.