Adelaide United ended Melbourne Victory's run with a one-nil win at Telstra Dome on Sunday in front of a new record attendance of over 32,000. Adelaide's win sent away the majority Victory support disappointed, but the Adelaide support of a hundred or so sang all the way through the stadium's cavernous below-ground tunnels under security escort to board their buses for their eleven-hour ride home.
Greg Owens was on the end of a swift break to lift the ball over Michael Theoklitos for the only goal of a tightly contested game eight minutes from time.
Adelaide United coach John Kosmina didn't see the end of the match after he was dismissed from the bench by referee Matthew Breeze following an altercation with Victory captain Kevin Muscat a little time later. Muscat objected to Kosmina delaying returning the ball to the pitch and pushed Kosmina over as he reached for the ball under Kosmina's chair. Kosmina reached for Muscat's throat once he'd regained his feet, and it required players and officials to separate the pugnacious pair.
"It was nothing," said Muscat after the game. "I was trying to get the ball back. We were one-nil down. I think I actually slipped, and that's all I remember. Kossie's alright - we had a good laugh about it afterwards."
"I went to pick the ball up and I got cleaned up," said Kosmina. "I don't like being assaulted. (Afterwards Muscat and I) had a laugh. We're mates. Just not during the ninety minutes of a game. If someone wants to nail me I'm not going to stand there and let them do it."
The contest was full-blooded from the start. Breeze needed to step in break up a melee which developed inside the first minute after Grant Brebner reacted angrily to Ross Aloisi's challenge on Fred resulting in most players joining the fray. Breeze cautioned Aloisi and Brebner once the dust had settled.
"We had to set our stall out early," said Kosmina. "It was Melbourne's home turf - it's an intimidating stadium to play in. Our first five minutes was fantastic. We had them on the back foot."
Owens and Angelo Costanzo would also be cautioned before the first-half's midpoint, for fouls on Adrian Caceres and Fred whose potency and speed on the ball would have been well known to Adelaide.
Travis Dodd's speed on the wings caused the Victory defence as he and Bobby Petta gave Adelaide width, but with little productive outcome. The re-gigged Melbourne back-line held firm despite the absence through suspension of Adrian Leijer.
Adelaide's best first-half opportunity came when Aloisi was quickly on to part-cleared corner and first-timed a shot from 20 metres which flashed by the top corner. Theoklitos would never have reached it were it only the foot lower it needed to be to find the net.
Matthew Kemp was to make a more significant intervention to keep Victory scoreless shortly after. As Adrian Caceres hared forward up the left following Daniel Piorkowski's mugging of Dodd to win possession, he fed Archie Thompson in a wider position. Thompson's cross eluded United goalkeeper Robert Bajic and to where Danny Allsopp lurked. Kemp, facing his own goal as he ran in to cover, booted the ball over the bar from a position almost under it for a corner.
It was a tight match with few clear chances as both sides battled to wrest midfield control. With combative participants like Muscat and Brebner facing Aloisi and Costanzo, and speedsters Dodd and Petta having Fred and Caceres as opposite numbers, the game was finely balanced.
As the game entered its final third, the pace of the game picked up. Muscat launched a long ball forward for Allsopp to chase. Only a last-ditch cover prevented his pass finding Thompson on a good position.
Seconds later it was Allsopp's reverse pass to Thompson which allowed Thompson to scamper up the right his shot was a poor one and well wide.
Later Allsopp was felled by Michael Valkanis as he sought to hold possession and await support. Muscat's free-kick was diverted around the post by Bajic, making a diving save to his left.
It was a Melbourne free-kick which was the foundation of the Adelaide goal. Aloisi had fouled Alessandro who had come on as a substitute and been substituted himself as a result of the injury he caused himself in the tackle. Brebner sent in the free-kick, but it was safely held by Bajic.
Bajic was quick to spot that defenders Piorkowski and Roddy Vargas had joined the attack and quickly threw the ball to Nathan Burns inside the centre-circle. Burns floored Brebner who had begun a chase, and ran with the ball into Victory territory. Shenquin Qu had made a diagonal run which took out Simon Storey, leaving Owens and Dodd spare on Burns' left. Burns played the ball to Owens who lifted his first-time shot over the exposed Theoklitos from the edge of the penalty-area.
"(It was) a great goal," said Kosmina. "(Owens made) a box-to-box (run) - what's (that) - about 80 metres? Not a bad effort and a good finish."
"The first half was very even," said Victory coach Ernie Merrick. "We tweaked it a bit at half time (and) stepped it up a bit. To concede a goal like that was very disappointing. (It was) a school-boy error. Credit to Adelaide. They came over here and got the win."
The subsequent tangle between Kevin Muscat and Adelaide Coach John Kosmina will likely have much more written about it than the goal, or most other aspects of the game, as it reached white-hot intensity from the most innocuous of beginnings. Muscat sought to get possession of the ball which rested under Kosmina's seat. Kosmina made a belated move to return it, but Muscat was not willing to wait. As Muscat closed on Kosmina, his momentum caused Kosmina's chair to be upended, Kosmina included. Muscat too was on the ground. As both men got to their feet, Kosmina had Muscat by the throat. Assistant coach Aurelio Vidmar attempted to separate the pair as did a number of others astonished at what was happening. Kosmina was ordered from the bench by Breeze and saw the remaining minutes from a position in the bowels of the stadium.
Referee Matthew Breeze showed Kevin Muscat the last yellow card of the day, but the card was missing from the official report of the game. So too was an apparent booking of Adelaide's Kristian Rees in a separate incident a minute before. Mention was made however of a referee's report later to arrive at FFA HQ, likely warranting FFA review of the matter, with possible consequent disciplinary action against one or both combatants.