Adelaide United continued its climb up the NSL ladder with a deserved 1-0 victory over Northern Spirit. The win takes Adelaidešs haul to 8 points from its last four games and has propelled the side into the top six on goal difference.
The game was played in front of another large and vocal Adelaide crowd of 9,159, an impressive attendance for a midweek night game.
Adelaide Coach John Kosmina changed his defensive lineup after conceding two late goals against Wollongong in the 11th round. He has replaced the flat back four with a sweeper system. Veteran Aurelio Vidmar looks very comfortable in the sweeper role and overall the side has become far less fragile at the back.
Adelaide got off to a great start with striker Mimi Saric heading home a Goran Lozanovski cross after only eight minutes.
The pace and hard work of Saric troubled the Spirit defence early in the first half. Only the offside trap and some shorts pulling kept Saric at bay.
Saric should have doubled the score in the 36th minute when he capitalized on some loose defending by Spirit, broke through the defence before sliding his shot past a stranded Henderson and into the upright.
Spirit rarely threatened the Adelaide goals and goalkeeper Scarsella was equal to the task on the few occasions Spirit managed to get close to goal or put in the rare cross. The performance of Scarsella was being closely watched by the Adelaide United fans who, to their credit, gave the young goalkeeper a very warm and encouraging reception for his first few touches of the game.
There was little change in tempo in the second half with Adelaide on top but not dominating the game. The best opportunity of the half fell to striker Carl Veart who was one on one with the goalkeeper. However Henderson came off his line quickly and pulled off a fine save to deny Veart.
The game almost exploded into an meelee when Adelaide youngster Saric was on the receiving end of a nasty over the ball studs up tackle. To his credit referee Craig Zetter quickly dealt with the situation though disappointed the crowd when he only handed out a caution to the Spirit culprit. However Zetter went on to undo his good work by handing out seven cautions within 38 minutes during the second half including both of the two goalkeepers.
Spirit could have leveled the scores in the 78th minute. Midfielder John Hutchinson found himself well inside the box with only the keeper to beat. Hutchinson scuffed his shot which meekly dribbled wide from well inside the box.
One of the highlights of the game was the entry of Alex Tobin in the 88th minute. Tobin was given a mixed but rousing reception from the crowd. He is regarded as one of the legends of local game. He has a profile amongst South Australians that is up there with the likes of Harry Kewell and Mark Viduka. We can only hope that it will not be too long before we see him back in the local soccer scene in some capacity.
Adelaide held on to its lead to grab three very important points. It was a solid and workmanlike performance by Adelaide. It may not have been spectacular but it did get the right result. Adelaide must win these games against mid ranked opponents if it is to challenge for a top six place.
Spirit were competitive all game without being threatening. The side was lacking any real firepower and struggled to create any opportunities against the tight Adelaide defence.
Selecting the best players for both teams is difficult because there were no standout performances from either side. Best for Adelaide was the very consistent defender Alagich. Other solid performers included goalkeeper Scarsella, defender Rees, midfielder Lozanovski and strikers Saric and Veart.
Best for Spirit was midfielder Wayne O'Sullivan and goalkeeper Paul Henderson.