Sergio Cirio and Fahid Ben Khalfallah traded goals in the last five minutes of regulation to force fierce rivals Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory to settle for a dour 1-1 draw at Adelaide Oval on Friday night.
A South Australian A-League record-smashing crowd of 33,126 – including Rolling Stones legend Ronnie Wood – appeared certain to sit through a listless scoreless deadlock before the late sparks gave the fans something to cheer about, even if the final result proved unfulfilling.
WHAT THEY SAID
Sergio Cirio: “We scored in the last few minutes and we had a good chance to beat them but they have a good team and very good players, these things can happen.”
Streaming forward, Tarek Elrich pushed the ball in front of Cirio who had Mark Milligan pursuing him. The Victory skipper slipped and United’s Spanish wizard pounced, cracking his shot into the left-hand corner, giving Nathan Coe – who had a fine game – no chance.
Ben Khalfallah 89′
The Tunisian midfielder provided a swift, crowd-silencing equaliser when he cracked a wonderful volley past Eugene Galekovic from Gui Finkler’s sweet corner.
After a prolonged arm wrestle, successive 41st-minute corner scrambles saw Nigel Boogaard then Cirio have good looks, only to come up empty-handed, Adelaide ruing two perfect chances to take a half-time lead which ultimately cost them.
In a grim contest surprisingly bereft of genuine spark, the terse sideline exchange in the first half between rival coaches Josep Gombau and Kevin Muscat was a rare highlight. Gombau gestured for the Victory boss to ‘sshh’, while Muscat’s verbal reply to the Spaniard was … unprintable.
The booking of Finkler for brushing the side of the flailing Isaias’s face would have had Muscat – not always a restrained customer at the best of times – breathing fire.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
Adelaide owned decisive edges in total shots (14-4) and corners (9-5) which should given them the full points but for a combination of wayward finishing and Coe’s staunchness in goal.
THE FINAL WORD
Adelaide will be disappointed at frittering away more chances than they would have liked but the opportunities created augur well for when they host Perth Glory next Sunday. Victory dug deep to show guts and determination in trying conditions ahead of next Saturday night’s home derby against Melbourne City.
Adelaide United: Galekovic (c), Boogaard, McGowan, Pablo Sanchez (Marrone 89′), Isaias, Cirio, Carrusca, Djite, Goodwin (Ferreira 80′), Jeggo, Elrich
Melbourne Victory: Coe, Geria (Mahazi 79′), Milligan (c), Finkler, Berisha, Barbarouses, Thompson (Ben Khalfallah 71′), Georgievski, Delpierre, Valeri, Leijer (Broxham 64′)
Scorers: Cirio (85′), Ben Khalfallah (89′)
Red cards: n/a
Yellow cards: Leijer (31′), Elrich (48′), Finkler (54′), Milligan (68′), Pablo Sanchez (75′), Ben Khalfallah (77′), Boogaard (78′)
Conditions: 26°C, sunny