Adelaide v Strikers

Playoff report by Lino Fusco
Adelaide United v Brisbane Strikers

Adelaide United has taken control of the Elimination Final tie with Brisbane Strikers after a convincing 3-0 victory in the first leg. Adelaide put in its best performance of the season in front of a massive crowd of 16,258 at Hindmarsh Stadium. Brisbane will need to pull something very special out of their bag of tricks to turn this tie around next weekend.

Not since the old derby games between the now defunct Adelaide City and West Adelaide has Hindmarsh Stadium reverberated with such an electric atmosphere. Many old timers will never forget the atmosphere at Hindmarsh when West Adelaide fought out a 1-1 draw with Adelaide City in the last game of the NSL season to take out the NSL championship. However the atmosphere tonight has set a new high and surpassed that of the old derby games and the memorable first game of the season, ironically against Brisbane.

Adelaide reverted to playing the sweeper system that has served them so well this season. Captain Aurelio Vidmar slotted into the sweeper role.

The two teams started the game nervously in front of the huge and very vocal crowd. Adelaide midfielder Ross Aloisi started strongly in the midfield in the early minutes of the game and the home side began to settle.

In the 7th minute crowd favourite Freddy Agius floated in a free kick to the far post but Vidmar was only able to shuffle the ball over the line for a goal kick.

Only a few minutes later Budin was almost put through by Carl Veart and rashly put in a challenge on the advancing Strikers goalkeeper Scott Higgins. The challenge earnt Budin a deserved entry into referees Ben Williamšs little black book.

Brisbanešs Louis Brain was getting some space down the flank and put several ball into the box but this did not trouble the Adelaide defence who were dominant in the centre of the park.

In the 14th minute Brisbane striker Joshua Rose was one on one with Adelaide defender Kris Rees who was fortunate to neutralize the dangerous situation by giving away a free kick with a clumsy challenge.

At around the 15th minute mark Adelaidešs passing game began to flow smoothly and the tempo of the game lifted. The Brisbane Strikers began to feel the pressure in their defence as Adelaide pushed the Strikers deep into their own half.

In the 25th minute Ross Aloisi knocked a fantastic ball to David Terminello down the right hand flank. Terminello crossed to Budin who unselfishly knocked the ball back to Richie Alagich on the penalty spot. Alagich put his shot just wide of the post in what was easily the best chance of the game so far.

Adelaide broke the deadlock in the 31st minute. David Terminello swung in a corner from the left and Carl Veart climbed above a pack of players to head the ball home. Hindmarsh Stadium erupted.

A few minutes later the game almost exploded into an ugly brawl after Aloisi was clumsily chopped down. Players from both teams came together and a few words and shoves were exchanged before referee Williams took control of the situation. Aloisi chipped in the resulting free kick to Agius whose header missed the target.

Adelaide continued to look for a second goal but just could not fashion an opening against the solid Brisbane defence. Adelaide went into the half time break with a well deserved 1 goal lead.

In the second half Brisbane started brightly but Adelaide quickly regained control of the game within minutes of the restart.

In the 49th minute Alagich put in a cross to Goulding who knocked his header back into an empty box before Veart got on the end of a sloppy clearance and drove his shot from 30m straight into the hands of Brisbane goalkeeper Higgins. Only a minute later Veart was testing Higgins again with a bullet strike from 40 metres. Another half a minute and it was Agiusšs turn to shoot but he sliced his shot wide from only 15 metres.

Adelaide was now dominating the game and it looked only a matter of time before they deservedly increased their lead.

In the 53rd minute Carl Veart had another shot on goal that sailed wide. Brisbane goalkeeper Higgins and his fellow defenders were starting to feel the pressure and started to look a little unsettled by the very vocal crowd behind the goals.

Adelaide was right on top and a series of efforts went close.

A fantastic through ball from Freddy Agius put through Aloisi and his effort was well saved by Higgins. The ball rebounded out and Higgins pulled off another save to deny Veart. The ball rebounded out again and Vidmar put his effort just wide with the whole goal at his mercy. Brisbane was very fortunate to survive this triplet of strikes from Adelaide.

In the 64th minute Carl Veart cleverly created some space for himself and had another shot from 30 metres that flew just over the bar.

Brisbanešs best chance of the game, and their first shot on target, came when David Pilic capitalized on a poor clearance by Adelaide. He powerfully struck his effort from 20 metres straight at Adelaidešs goalkeeper Scarsella who comfortably parried the shot.

Only a minute later Pilic had another half chance and once again hit his effort straight into the safe hands of Scarsella.

Freddy Agius then sent the Hindmarsh crowd into frenzy with the best goal scored at Hindmarsh Stadium since Damian Mori struck the fastest goal on record from the half way line. Terminello cleverly controlled the ball, knocked it to Alagich who struck a fantastic long diagonal ball to Agius. Agius controlled the ball in his stride, ran 15 metres with the ball before unleashing a magnificent shot hit with the outside of his left boot. His powerful curling strike from 30 metres flew into the back of the net and had goalkeeper Higgins absolutely stranded with no chance. It was a fantastic goal from the incredibly talented Agius.

To make matters worse for the Strikers, young defender Wayne Heath was sent off, in a seemingly harsh decision, after bringing down Carl Veart. Veart had cleverly spun his way through the Brisbane defence before being brought down by Heath who was doubtfully the last man while surrounded by two fellow defenders.

Vidmar almost made it three goals to nil from the free kick. Agius touched the free kick to Vidmar and his shot slid just inches wide of the goalpost. A minute later Aloisi smashed a 35 meter shot that also went only inches wide of the goal post.

Adelaide continued to search for the third goal and chances came regularly against a seemingly demoralized Brisbane. The goal finally came in the 92nd minute when Michael Brooks got on the end of a brilliant Alagich cross and headed home from the penalty spot.

It was a very convincing victory for Adelaide against an ineffective Brisbane side that only managed two efforts on target all game. Adelaide coach John Kosmina will be pleased to be taking a 3 goal advantage into the second leg in Brisbane.

The Strikers will return to Brisbane licking their wounds. The cauldron like atmosphere at Hindmarsh Stadium seemed to unsettle the side who will not doubt put in a better performance at Perry Park. The stadium was absolutely jam packed with fans after officials increased the capacity 15,000 to 16,258 during the week.

There was an army of best players for Adelaide. Veterans Veart, Vidmar and Aloisi controlled the middle of the park while Terminello, Alagich and Agius dominated the flanks. Valkanis defended well while Budin worked tirelessly up front.

Best for Brisbane was midfielder Louis Brain and goalkeeper Scott Higgins who did his best to turn back the red tide.