A goal from Carl Veart seven minutes from time gave Adelaide United the win against Melbourne Victory in front of a near capacity Olympic Park crowd on Friday evening. The win confirms Adelaide's tenure as league leaders, and condemns Victory to its second successive defeat.
Veart ran onto a perfectly lobbed ball from man of the match Angelo Costanzo which sent him clear of the Victory defence, and left goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic totally exposed. Veart still had a task to complete, but said Galekovic's need to make the first move provided the opening.
"(Galekovic) made my mind up for me by coming out of goal so quickly," Veart said. "I just needed to get it past him and it was in."
"We've got a good side," said Adelaide coach John Kosmina. "They work for each other, and we play to our strengths. (Victory) played well tonight, but we got bodies in the right areas at the right times."
"It was just one of those games," said Victory coach Ernie Merrick after the game. "Overall, I thought we dominated the midfield. They got the ball forward to the strikers. We had several chances, we just didn't put them away."
"The defence was solid all day, (but) one through ball and we got caught out," he said. "Adelaide did very well. They did what they have to do to win games. It's a different style of football from us, but they're getting results."
Adelaide had created enough chances throughout the game for the win, but Victory had had its chances too. It was a tightly-contested physical battle of a game which either side could have won, and whichever side lost would feel hard done by. Victory has yet to score against Adelaide in their five encounters to date, which indicates that Adelaide's tactics against Victory have been well thought out.
Adelaide United lined up with a packed five-man midfield, with only Shengqing Qu up front. Victory played a three-man strike-force. This was going to be a battle of styles and formation-effectiveness. United managed to keep its shape throughout the game, and Victory constantly strove for the game-cracking goal, but was forced to rely more upon moments of individual brilliance, rather than sustained teamwork and pattern.
The first chance of the game arose just eleven minutes in. It fell to Adelaide defender Kristian Rees who had galloped upfield as United broke quickly. Victory captain Kevin Muscat, assisted only by Adrian Leijer, sought to catch Qu offside but Qu had cleverly held his run.
Now facing only goalkeeper Galekovic and with the Victory pair chasing, Qu played a square ball inside to where Rees was heading. Rees had Muscat breathing down his neck, and it was a combination of this and his unfamiliarity with such an advanced position which allowed the ball to be scrambled clear.
Rees' game-changing moment however was still to arrive.
Shortly after, Qu had a free-kick from 20 metres crash off the bar. Travis Dodd fired the ball over the top after he'd been set up by Veart who had been first to the ball's rebound.
In between, Richard Kitzbichler had fired over after Allsopp had released Archie Thompson up the right. Thompson's back-heel was straight into the path of Kitzbichler and completely wrong-footed the United defence.
Mark Byrnes had a sharp chance just before the half-hour which brought out a finger-tip deflection over the bar from Daniel Beltrame when he struck goalwards from 25 metres, running onto a part-cleared corner.
Carl Recchia drove over just after the restart which needed Beltrame to make a block. Then shortly after came a Victory move which needed desperate Adelaide defence to keep out. Allsopp had made a rampaging run down the left, squaring to Thompson. Beltrame had also come out for the ball and dived at Thompson's feet, but not before Thompson was able to play the ball back to Kitzbichler at the edge of the penalty-area. With Beltrame now on the ground, Kitzbichler sought to place his shot. It took a sliding lunge by Rees to slow the ball's momentum, then Michael Valkanis gratefully booted the ball clear off the line.
"That was a fantastic block," said Kosmina of Rees' desperate defence.
On the hour Thompson shot over after he'd got behind the United defence from a Vlahos release.
Allsopp missed an attempt with a back-heel from six yards when the ball came to him unexpectedly after Michael Ferrante's strong run up the right. "I didn't even see it," said a rueful Allsopp in the after-match media conference.
But with Victory running out of energy and ideas, it was Costanzo and Veart who combined to win the game with next to no time for a reply.