A defiant Melbourne City FC bowed out of the Hyundai A-League Finals Series after a disappointing 4-1 defeat against Adelaide United at Coopers Stadium on Friday night.
After a frenetic first half which saw both sides enter the break on level terms, Reds striker Bruce Djite struck twice within the opening 15 minutes of the second half – including a superb opener from long range – to fire the hosts into a 2-0 lead.
Nick Fitzgerald ensured a tense finale when he side-footed beyond Eugene Galekovic with 18 minutes to play, before late goals to Dylan McGowan and Pablo Sanchez ended City’s charge towards a maiden Grand Final berth.
It was a sombre end to what has been a record-breaking campaign for City. John van’t Schip’s side fought valiantly and played with a renewed sense of vigour and determination following Fitzgerald’s lifeline, but were ultimately outclassed by a rampant Adelaide side spearheaded by the excellent Djite.
After overseeing his side’s recovery from a short five-day turnaround, Head Coach van’t Schip maintained his faith in the same starting XI that swept aside Perth Glory in last week’s Elimination Final.
With a sell-out crowd of 15,489 filling Coopers Stadium to the brim, the match started at the frenetic pace demanded from a cut-throat Semi Final clash, with both sides registering a clear sight on goal within the opening minutes.
Craig Goodwin demonstrated his prowess from the set-piece with a curling effort into the arms of Sorensen, while the lively Anthony Caceres threatened immediately up the other end with a shot fired straight at Eugene Galekovic.
The open and free-flowing start to the match was a prelude to a sustained wave of Adelaide pressure, with the home side launching a wave of attacks against a City rearguard who did well to repel everything that came its way.
Adelaide creator-in-chief Marcelo Carrusca fired a warning shot over the bar from the edge of the penalty area, before City ‘keeper Thomas Sorensen produced a brilliant reaction save to deny Bruce Kamau from close range at the back post.
The Great Dane kept City in the contest with a string of fine first-half saves; first keeping out a thunderous effort from Djite with a strong left hand, before allowing Jack Clisby to clear the ball off the line with a superb point-blank stop to deny the marauding Kamau.
After keeping the hosts at bay throughout an entertaining first period, it took a moment of brilliance from Djite to eventually breach City’s rear-guard, curling a delicate shot past Sorensen to open the scoring two minutes after the restart.
The game appeared to be slipping away from City when Jack Clisby conceded a penalty for a foul on Kamau inside the area, with Djite coolly sending Sorensen the wrong way to double the advantage.
Fitzgerald ensured a nervy finale, adding another spectacular goal to his Coopers Stadium collection with a side-footed effort which cannoned in-off the post.
But the Reds hustled, harried and never sat back, with late goals to McGowan and Sanchez confirming their superiority on the night.
Hyundai A-League Semi-Final
Friday, 22 April 2016
Adelaide United 4 (Bruce DJITE 47’, 60’ [pen], Dylan MCGOWAN 88’, Pablo SANCHEZ 90+4’)
Melbourne City FC 1 (Nick FITZGERALD 72’)
Venue: Coopers Stadium, Adelaide
Referee: Strebre Delovski
Melbourne City FC line-up: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 2. Alexander WILKINSON, 8. Aaron MOOY, 18. Paulo RETRE (Connor CHAPMAN 62), 19. Benjamin GARUCCIO (Marc MARINO 62’), 22. Jack CLISBY, 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 24. Patrick KISNORBO (C) (Jacob MELLING 81’), 27. Nick FITZGERALD, 29. Anthony CACERES, 33. Osama MALIK
Substitutes not used: 20. Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 3. Aaron HUGHES,
Yellow cards: Retre 12’, Garuccio 61’, Caceres 67’
Red cards: nil
Adelaide United line-up: 1. Eugene GALEKOVIC (GK) (C), 2. Michael MARRONE, 3. Iacopo LA ROCCA, 4. Dylan MCGOWAN, 6. Stefan MAUK (Jordan ELSEY 90+1), 8. ISAIAS, 9. Sergio CIRIO, 10. Marcelo CARRUSCA, 11. Bruce DJITE, 16. Craig GOODWIN (Tarek ELRCH 80), 24. Bruce KAMAU (Pablo SANCHEZ 84’)
Substitutes not used: 20. John HALL (GK),, 14. George MELLS,
Yellow cards: Goodwin 36’, La Rocca 57’. Mauk 68’, Sanchez 90’
Red cards: nil