Adelaide City snatched a last minute draw at Bob Jane Stadium on Sunday against league leaders South Melbourne, despite playing a man short from the 30th minute.
Angelo Costanzo was dismissed after a last defender foul tackle on Michael Curcija just outside the penalty area, with the Olyroo in a strong shooting position. The send-off was the reason behind Zebra's coach Zoran Matic deciding not to appear at the post-game media conference in case he would say something that would get him into trouble with the authorities. He gave the waiting press a short illustration of his anger directed at referee Simon Micallef, but as his comments were not given for publication, Inside Soccer has refrained from publishing them.
By the time Costanzo trudged off the rain-soaked pitch, South had already taken the lead. Curcija had netted from close-in after an uncharacteristically indecisive play from defensive veteran Milan Ivanovic. Ivanovic delayed in possession deep in his own half and found the ball snapped away from him by Vaughan Coveny. Coveny crossed, Paul Trimboli either missed an attempt at a header or heard a call and allowed it to continue its flight to where Curcija blasted home from six yards.
Given the expected keen nature of the contest, the feeling was a solitary goal would settle things, and when Costanzo made his premature exit, that belief was more strongly held.
Goran Lozanovski - coming off his game-winning performance in last week's derby against Carlton - put his dead-ball skills into action with a stunning 35 metre strike which cannoned off the bar and back into play midway through the first half, but there were to be too few goal-threatening moments to keep the crowd entertained. It was more a dour struggle for dominance which South - a player to the good - should have won, but didn't.
Fausto De Amicis, steady on his feet despite the hazardous conditions, had the better of Damian Mori and Carl Veart for almost all of the game, but when Mori is in the opposition's line-up, almost all of the game is never good enough.
Adelaide pressed strongly at the beginning of the second half, but South had successfully weathered that as previously. Travis Dodd and Veart were both on the end of promising attacks early in the half, and Vaughan Coveny and, surprisingly for he is a principally a defender, Robert Liparoti had equally good counters for South shortly after.
The second goal just wouldn't come for the reigning champions. Paul Trimboli came close to setting it up 77 minutes in after being fed by Coveny wide on the right, then playing a driven cross where Curcija who looked certain to score, only to see Jason Petkovic getting a touch and deflecting it over.
With the crowd heading for the Bob Jane exits, Mori and Veart drew deep within their energy reserves to launch what must have seemed Adelaide City's last attempt one minute from time. Veart was put through after a typically powerful run by Mori, who has excellent close control at speed, but South Melbourne keeper Michael Petkovic was bravely out to save at Veart's feet.
Scarcely a minute later the same duo was to gain the goal their team deserved given the enterprise it had displayed in this showdown of past champions.
"I thought we played well," said South coach Angie Postecoglou after the game. "They were down to ten men, we were pushing it around, we were creating chances. If we had scored a second goal the game was over. We didn't, and that always gives the opposition a chance."
"Apart from disappointment at throwing away the three points, I'll probably get up tomorrow morning, look at the tape of the game, and say we played pretty well. If we keep playing like that, then we'll be fine."