An early goal from Adelaide United’s Sergio Cirio sunk Melbourne City FC in an A-League friendly at Anzac Oval in Alice Springs on Saturday afternoon.
However, the score line was not necessarily indicative of the evenness of the contest, with Melbourne City FC enjoying a promising second half.
Adelaide opened the scoring early in the third minute as Melbourne City FC failed to clear a long throw-in from the right from Awer Mabil and Cirio buried the chance at the back post.
Despite the early lapse, Melbourne looked to hit back immediately following a free kick won by international marquee Robert Koren, 20 metres from goal in the sixth minute.
A set-piece routine involving David Williams and Aaron Mooy, which set up Koren, resulted in the Slovenian rocketing an effort into an Adelaide defender, and Josep Gombau’s side quickly regrouped at the back and cleared.
Led by Nigel Boogaard and Dylan McGowan, Adelaide were strong in defence and managed to repel a number of Melbourne’s attacks, while Melbourne also failed to convert when presented with the chance.
John van’t Schip’s side could have equalised in the 12th minute as Mate Dugandzic stripped his opponent of possession and broke forward with Williams, Mooy and Koren ahead of him, but his cut-back missed its target.
Adelaide looked to threaten shortly after as Velaphi was called into action in the 16th minute as a low cross from the left from Cirio troubled Patrick Kisnorbo, and Bruce Djite managed to toe the ball towards goal and goalkeeper Tando Velaphi had to flick the ball to safety.
Duff, who played the full 90 minutes and registered a promising display, almost returned parity to the scoreboard in the 18th minute, executing a powerful cross from the left, which Dugandzic turned on target, but Eugene Galekovic battered the effort away from Adelaide’s goal.
Williams, named captain for the match, was the next Melbourne City FC player to go close to drawing the sides level, angling a shot just wide of Galekovic’s far post after being put through by a clever through-ball over the Adelaide defence from Koren.
The first half ended on a sour note as Adelaide suffered two injuries, with Osama Malik (ankle) and Jordan Elsey (wrist) forced from the field.
The second half proved more positive for van’t Schip’s charges, with Duff proving a menace down the right with his pace and ball control and it was the Irishman’s linking play with Koren which nearly produced a goal two minutes into the second stanza.
Beating his man down the wing, Duff slipped Koren through on goal and with just Galekovic to beat, the marquee’s effort was tame and was easily saved, when the Slovenian should have found a corner past the veteran Adelaide stopper.
Melbourne City FC enjoyed a sustained period of pressure, only interrupted by substitute Marcelo Carrusca’s long-range effort which fizzed over Velaphi’s cross bar, but couldn’t fashion an opening in front of goal when it counted.
Substitutions became a regular occurrence with stoppages in play as both sides made a number of changes; however, Melbourne City maintained the pressure.
Substitute Stefan Mauk nearly profited from great combination play from Duff and Murdocca, but his effort was closed down and he lost the opportunity.
Mauk again turned an effort wide, before a Mooy free-kick was diverted on goal by Williams, but Galekovic was again equal to the task and palmed clear.
Carrusca again tried to change the scoreboard and with 20 minutes to spare his dangerous free-kick was inches away from connecting with Cirio, who looked to snare a second goal for Adelaide.
Despite Melbourne’s pressure, it was United who looked more likely to score as the clock ticked down and only a timely interception by Velaphi at the feet of Isaias prevented Adelaide from doubling its advantage.
Melbourne City FC had one last roll of the dice from a late free-kick and as Ben Garuccio’s initial effort struck the wall, Mooy followed up with a stinging left-foot volley, only to see Galekovic pounce to his right and save another opportunity.
While Melbourne City FC left Anzac Oval defeated, there were a number of positive signs for van’t Schip’s side to take away from the encounter.
Saturday 23 August 2014
Adelaide United 1 (Sergio Cirio 3’)
Melbourne City FC 0
ANZAC Oval, Alice Springs NT
Referee: Lucien Laverdure
Adelaide United FC: 1. Eugene Galekovic (GK), 3. Nigel Boogaard, 4. Dylan McGowan, 8. Isaias, 9. Sergio Cirio (13. Dylan Smith 88’), 11. Bruce Djite (12. Mark Ochieng 74’), 17. Awer Mabil (24. Bruce Kamau 56’), 21. Tarek Elrich, 22. Pablo Sanchez Alberto (10. Marcelo Carrusca 46’), 26. Osama Malik (23. Jordan Elsey 36’, 15. Ben Warland 41’)
Substitutes not used: 20. Paul Izzo (GK), 18. James Jeggo, 30. John Hall (GK), 32. Nathan Konstandopoulos
Yellow cards: Isaias 73’
Red cards: Nil
Melbourne City FC: 20. Tando Velaphi (GK), 3. Robbie Wielaert, 6. Aaron Mooy, 7. Iain Ramsay (19. Benjamin Garuccio 83’), 8. Massimo Murdocca, 10. Robert Koren (21. Stefan Mauk, 61’), 11. Damien Duff, 15. David Williams (C) (32. Marc Marino 71’), 23. Mate Dugandzic (18. Paulo Retre 66’), 24. Patrick Kisnorbo, 26. Ross Archibald (T) (13. Jonatan Germano 61’)
Substitutes not used: 1. Andrew Redmayne (GK), 17. Tom King (T)
Yellow cards: Marino 72’, Murdocca 90’
Red cards: Nil