A scoreless draw against Adelaide United at Olympic Park on Saturday evening was enough to send Melbourne Victory into the semi-finals of the pre-season cup. Adelaide United needed to await the result of the other game of the group in Perth to know whether it too had qualified, but the liklihood was that Adelaide would miss out.
Despite the lack of goals, there was an ebb and flow to the contest which gave heart to both coaches. It was a game where Victory marginally shaded the first half, then Adelaide United the second, with both teams ruing missed opportunities in front of goal.
’ÄúI thought that was the best we’Äôve played so far,’Äù said Victory coach Ernie Merrick. ’ÄúWe started off really well. (We had) a terrific first half, we didn’Äôt finish some of the chances that we had (but) we had a few.’Äù
’ÄúWe ran out of legs in the last ten minutes,’Äù he said. ’ÄúBut I’Äôm really happy with the performance today.’Äù
Adelaide United coach John Kosmina also felt happy with his side’Äôs display.
’ÄúI was really happy with the way that we played,’Äù said Kosmina. ’ÄúMelbourne are a good side... (In) the second half, we were dynamite we were unlucky not to come away with three points.’Äù
Kosmina was phlegmatic on the number of chances left unconverted by Adelaide, especially in the latter stages of the game as United pressed for a winner.
’ÄúWe’Äôre creating opportunities,’Äù said Kosmina a noted goalscorer in his days in the national league. ’ÄúIf you’Äôre not, then you’Äôve got problems. Sometimes they go in sometimes they don’Äôt. We might end up scoring more than one or two goals once the season proper starts.’Äù
The scoreless game was perhaps not surprising given that these two teams had now netted and conceded no goals in their three encounters so far.
’ÄúWe’Äôve come to an arrangement,’Äù said Merrick with a smile.
Travis Dodd was Adelaide’Äôs most dangerous player down the United right flank in the first half. When he was switched to a more central striking role in the second, Dodd showed a level of sharpness which required both good planning as well as some moments of good fortune by Victory to keep him from breaking the deadlock.
’ÄúTravis had an outstanding match,’Äù said Kosmina. ’ÄúHe can create heaps of problems because of his pace. He had a great game.’Äù
Shenquing Qu gave some advance warning of his class with some fine play, and good physical presence. Coming back into effective action so soon after being knocked down by a car in Adelaide shortly after his arrival from China augurs well for United and its chances in the season to come.
There were few clear opportunities created in the first half, but those which were fell mostly Victory’Äôs way. Kristian Sarkies once again took the lead role in the centre of Victory’Äôs engine-room and worked effectively with Richard Kitzbichler to his right to create openings in the blanket Adelaide defence, marshalled capably by Michael Valkanis and Angelo Costanzo.
As could be expected with the sides still sorting out how best to combine, there were some misfires as well. One notable piece of poor communication between Daniel Piorkowski and Geoffrey Claes just before the half-hour almost allowed Dodd possession in a dangerous area, but Eugene Galekovic was able to beat the ball clear.
Daniel Allsopp and Archie Thompson are still working away at their pairing, and almost brought off a goal just after the break when Thompson sent through a diagonal ball behind the United defence and onto which Allsopp charged. With United goalkeeper straining to reach it, Allsopp just failed to get the touch that surely would have sent it into the net.
But as the game went into its final stages, Adelaide United came into contention and should have done better with the opportunities it created. At one point, solid pressure brought four corners in succession, none of which was able to be bundled over the goal-line. Carl Veart and substitute Chad Bugeja could have each netted as the game drew to a close, and an unorthodox backheel near the line from Kristian Rees seemed as if it would score, but was battered clear at the last.
Travis Dodd had the last chance of the game with a header in the final seconds of added time, when a goal was certainly merited and the travelling fans deserved it.