Adelaide v Victory

A-League report by Lino Fusco
Adelaide United v Melbourne Victory

Melbourne Victory has made it seven wins in its last seven games against Adelaide United after running out comfortable victors against their arch rivals in front of 15,028 fans at Hindmarsh Stadium tonight. Aurelio Vidmar's Adelaide United has now not beaten Melbourne Victory since 12 October 2007.

Adelaide fans knew their team was in trouble before a ball was kicked when Vidmar lined up his team in its much maligned 4-5-1 formation. Adelaide United has failed to score a single goal in open play this season.

It took Melbourne Victory only 6 minutes to hammer another nail in Adelaide United's season albeit through a complete fluke. Melbourne's Nicky Ward went to curl in a cross from out wide only to mishit the ball and see it fly inside Adelaide's front post. Galekovic, in goals for Adelaide, was caught stepping out for the expected cross and hesitated as the ball flew into the back of his net. It was a cruel goal to concede but at least it came early in the match and Adelaide still had 84 minutes to make amends.

One goal down, 84 minutes remaining, against your arch rivals and in front of the biggest home crowd in 2 years, Adelaide United fans could be forgiven for believing their team would come out fighting. How wrong they were! Instead Adelaide United fans had to endure another poor home performance by their team. Striker Owusu was left isolated up front to fend for himself against three Victory defenders. On one of the rare occasions when Owusu did win out, he looked up to pass the ball only to see a penalty box devoid of a single Adelaide United player - a clear indictment of Adelaides 4-5-1 system. In Adelaide United's midfield Pantelis and Dodd were going through the motions, frequently caught ball watching and doing little when Victory had possession of the ball. Their failure to make any meaningful contribution effectively cut off the head of Adelaide United's attack and there-in lies the fundamental flaw of its current system.

Melbourne went close to increasing its lead in the 24th minute when Nicky Ward hit a low cross to the front post. Pondeljak was first to the ball and he turned his shot just wide of the upright.

Two minutes later it was a rare turn for Adelaide to threaten the Melbourne goal. Cassio setup Owusu with a short pass inside the Melbourne penalty area only for the striker to have strayed marginally offside.

In the 31st minute an otherwise quiet Archie Thompson popped up, made space for himself inside the Adelaide penalty area before chipping the ball only centre metres over the crossbar.

Adelaide's best chance to level the scores came in the final minute of the first half. Travis Dodd crossed in a ball to the back post, Owusu held off his defender and made space for onrushing Adam Hughes. Midfielder Hughes rose inside the box with only the goalkeeper to beat but disappointingly put his header straight into the arms of goalkeeper Moss. Ironically Hughes joined Adelaide at the start of the season with a reputation as midfielder who would score goals.

A fired up Adelaide United came out in the second half. The fire burnt brightly for a few minutes before Melbourne regained their dominance.

Melbourne's Hernandez was given room 18m out from goal in the 52nd minute. He struck the ball goal wards and had goalkeeper Galekovic at full stretch to save the shot.

In the 77th minute Archie Thompson caught the Adelaide defence very square when he jumped on the end of a through ball from Muscat. Thompson smashed the ball goal wards forcing another good save from goalkeeper Galekovic.

Melbourne put the result beyond doubt in the 90th minute with their second goal. Archie Thompson intercepted a Cassio pass near the corner flag, ran towards goal unchallenged before attempting to knock the ball across the penalty area. Adelaide's Cornthwaite turned the cross into his own goal only to be denied by the goalpost. The ball rebounded off the goalpost straight into the path of Brebner who smashed the ball home from only 3 metres out. 2-0 to Melbourne and the game was all over.

Ominously for Adelaide United, their disgruntled fans streamed out the exits before the final whistle whilst those that remained chanted their dissatisfaction. Referee Strebre Delovski finally put the remaining Adelaide fans out of their misery in the 94th minute.

It was a crucial win for Melbourne and, according to midfielder Nicky Ward, will setup Melbourne's run to the end of the season. Coach Ernie Merrick was very pleased with the win after the reigning champions misfiring start to the season. However he should not draw too much solace from the result as it was achieved against a struggling opponent.

In contrast the loss could be the beginning of the end for Adelaide United coach Aurelio Vidmar. Critically Vidmar appears unable to recongnise his teams failings. In his post match interview Vidmar said he could not fault the commitment and effort of his players which was first class and, in response to questioning, played down the need to change his misfiring 4-5-1 formation. "We will continue to play our strongest team and our strongest formation. I don't know why we need to continually change when things have worked well for us in the past" said Vidmar. It's a view that is not shared by his players with striker Owusu saying "I hope so" when asked if he thought Adelaide should change its formation and play with 2 strikers up front.

Adelaide United's situation is not being helped by the below par form of several players including captain Travis Dodd and vice captain Lucas Pantelis. New signing Adam Hughes has failed to impress so far this season and is struggling to fill the large hole left by the end of season departures of hard man Jonas Salley and the creative Diego. Yet Adelaide is hardly helping itself when it continues to select one nameless defender who is lacking in the basic skills to kick a football with any accuracy.

Aurelio Vidmar is running out of time to turn around Adelaide's season. Adelaide play 3 critical games in 9 days starting in Townsville, returning home to Hindmarsh to play Newcastle before flying out to Perth. Adelaide will want to get close to maximum points from these three games otherwise it could find itself at risk of being at the wrong end of a gap between the top five and the bottom five of the A-League.

Best for Adelaide is difficult to select in a misfiring team. Scott Jamieson toiled hard, Cassio occasionally demonstrated that he is Adelaide's most creative player whilst Mark Rudan and Ian Fyfe are showing signs they are beginning to settle in at the back.

For Melbourne, not matter how much opposition fans may loath him, it is impossible to ignore the influence of captain Kevin Muscat. Pondeljak, Ryall, Vargas and Kemp were all solid performers.

Melbourne were hardly outstanding in their performance tonight but deserved the victory. Adelaide, on the other hand, were poor and handed the three points to their opponents.