Adelaide United may have rescued its season when it grabbed all three points in an enthralling 3-2 victory over Newcastle Jets at Hindmarsh Stadium. The result brought an end to Adelaide's four game winless streak.
Adelaide went into the game minus its captain Ross Aloisi after coach John Kosmina made the tough but long overdue decision to drop the out of form midfielder. Greg Owens moved from the bench into the starting line-up while Costanzo came into the squad at the expense of Aloisi. The match was Brasilian legend Romario's fourth and final match for Adelaide.
Newcastle was minus key playmaker Nick Carle due to suspension and Paul Okon due to injury. Ivan Necevski made way for returning Socceroo goalkeeper Ante Covic making his debut for the Jets.
This was a critical game for the two teams as they are on level points and both challenging for a top four place. Newcastle is the in-form side in the A-League in complete contrast to Adelaide which appears to have lost its way in recent weeks.
The Jets kicked off the game and both teams hit top gear from the start moving the ball rapidly from one end to the other.
In the 5th minute a Spagnuolo corner was cleared to Adelaide's Owens on the edge of the box. He smashed to ball towards goal but it was blocked by a Jets defender. The Jets counterattacked with pace. Four Jets players streaked towards a goal protected by only two Adelaide defenders. But the Jets squandered the numerical advantage - a good opportunity wasted.
A few minutes later Greg Owens combined with Romario and sent a 30 metre ball splitting open the Newcastle defence. Spagnuolo streaked down the line while his team mates streaked into the box only to see Spagnuolo's cross fly high and out for a throw in.
Spagnuolo went one better in the 14th minute. The ball was fed to his feet down the flank. With his back to the goal he turned two Jets defenders inside out before sending a third defender the wrong way as he streaked towards goal. He smashed his shot low and hard but Newcastle goalkeeper Covic deflected the shot into the path of Romario. The Brasilian tapped the ball home from one metre out and Hindmarsh Stadium erupted - Romario had broken his goal drought to the relief of the player, the club and all the fans inside Hindmarsh Stadium. He saluted the crowd and was clearly relieved at finally hitting the back of the net. 1-0 to Adelaide.
The goal lifted Adelaide who started playing possession football. They could have doubled the score when Owens once again found Spagnuolo out wide. Spagnuolo cut the ball inside into the path of young Nathan Burns. He hit a low shot safely into the arms of a relieved goalkeeper Covic.
As much as Adelaide dominated the possession, Newcastle counter attacked with vigour regularly stretching the Adelaide defence. But their final touch was letting them down. In the 21st minute Bridge went close with a drive from just outside the box. Two minutes later Bridge was at it again with a clever one - two splitting the Adelaide defence. Bridge hit his shot low and hard but was denied by a good save from Beltrame.
In the 28th minute Newcastle attacker Joel Griffith had a very fortunate escape after clashing with Adelaide defender Kristian Rees. With defender Michael Valkanis mopping up, Griffith deliberately raised his elbow collecting Rees behind play (and missed by the Fox Sports cameras). Referee Mark Shield saw the incident and Griffith escaped with a very lenient yellow card - possible saved by the good sportsmanship displayed by Rees who stayed on his feet and did not make anything of the incident.
Adelaide and Newcastle strutted their stuff all over the park - playing attractive attacking football. After scoring a cracking goal last week, Newcastle midfielder Bridge was regularly backing of himself taking at least half a dozen attempts at the Adelaide goal from distance.
In the 37th minute Owens was at it again. This time he picked out Romario who knocked a diagonal all to Burns on the edge of the penalty area. Burns' first touch took him wide before he smashed a pile driver into the underside of the bar. The ball bounced out to Fernando who beat two Newcastle defenders before hitting his shot just over the bar from the penalty spot.
In a blow for Newcastle Joel Griffiths limped off the park just before half time and was replaced by Adam D'Apuzzo. At half time the score board read Romario 1 Newcastle 0.
In the second half Adelaide kicked off heading towards its familiar home end - the northern end. Adelaide had applied the pressure on Newcastle for the first 15 minutes of the second half. But it was Newcastle that struck first through Bridge in the 59th minute. Newcastle worked the ball around the edge of the box until Thompson squared the ball to Bridge who found himself in space. Bridge smashed his shot just inside the post giving Beltrame no chance. Great goal to Newcastle - scores were now level at one each.
Newcastle's joy was very short lived. Seconds after the restart, Spagnuolo controlled a long high ball before flicking it square to Fernando. The Brasilian hit an ordinary strike but it appeared to wrong foot Covic and slipped in under his legs. 2-1 to Adelaide.
Eight minutes later Newcastle struck back with another wonderful goal. Matt Thompson received the ball out wide then turned Adelaide defender Kristian Rees inside out before smashing the ball into the top right hand corner. 2-2 - what a game!.
For the second week running it was up to Greg Owens to come to Adelaide's rescue. Having seen Bridge and Thompson score two great goals, Owens must have decided he could go one better. Romario squared the ball to Owens 25 metres out from goal. Owens went left before cutting inside. He then hit a curling shot into the top corner from 20 metres out - a spectacular goal - 3-2 to Adelaide in the 77th minute.
Carl Veart almost made it 4.-2 in the 79th minute. Dodd cut the ball inside to Veart who ran from deep and broke through the Newcastle defence. But Covic was equal to the task pulling off a great save to deny Veart.
In the 83rd minute Dodd picked out Romario lurking in the far corner of the field. The Brasilian twisted his way towards goal. With absolutely no room to get off a shot, Romario unleashed a pile driver through the legs of a defender from the edge of the box. Covic just managed to get a hand to the ball to deny the Brasilian a spectacular second goal.
Adelaide's Brasilian connection combined in the 86th minute. Fernando knocked the ball to Romario on the edge of the box. Romario held the ball up before knocking it back. Fernando then chipped the ball to the back post but the weary legs of Romario did not have the pace to get on the end of the ball. It was to be Romario's last action of the game. He walked off the ground to a standing ovation from the crowd. Whilst his form in his first three games had been lacklustre, he had put in a good performance in his final game for Adelaide. In 90 minutes Romario had won over the Adelaide crowd.
In the final five minutes Adelaide played possession football stringing the passes together and running down the clock. Mark Shields finally blew the whistle for full time - 3-2 win to Adelaide.
It was a crucial win for Adelaide giving it some breathing space on the pack of sides seeking its spot in the top four. Importantly it heralded a return to form for Adelaide after struggling in recent weeks.
Coach John Kosmina will be pleased his side has continued its good home record - second only to Melbourne Victory. Adelaide's problem is away from home where its record is the third worst in the A-League. He will be relieved to see his side regain some semblance of form after struggling in recent weeks. It was Adelaide's best performance in two months.
Kosmina has a selection problem for Adelaide's next game away to Perth. Captain Ross Aloisi is slated to return to the starting line up but his absence coincided with his side's best performance in two months. Aloisi's replacement, Greg Owens, was man of the match.
Newcastle coach Gary Van Egmond will be most disappointed in the way his side conceded its second goal so soon after drawing level. However he should be pleased in the way his side continues to play attractive football home and away. The last time Newcastle came to Hindmarsh Stadium earlier in the season they were hit for five goals. Their improvement since then is apparent to all and they are arguably the form side of the A-League.
A spectacular 40 goals have been scored at Hindmarsh Stadium in 9 games this season. With two games remaining, Hindmarsh Stadium may crack 50 goals in one season.
Best for Adelaide was rapidly developing midfielder Greg Owens. Jason Spagnuolo was not far behind with a very strong first half performance. Beltrame was confident in goals while Romario put in his best performance of his four game guest stint.
Bridge was the pick of the Newcastle side ably supported by Thompson. Bridge was always troubling Adelaide around the edge of the box and was not shy of having a go from range. Covic pulled off some great saves but will be disappointed with his effort for Adelaide's second goal.