Melbourne City FC ended its Hyundai A-League regular season in disappointing fashion with a 2-0 defeat against Adelaide United in a fiery contest at AAMI Park on Friday night.
With both sides firmly entrenched in a four-way battle for the Premiers’ Plate, City’s evening began in disastrous fashion when Isaias stunned the 11,454 crowd with a well-taken free-kick inside the opening four minutes.
City’s woes were further compounded by a moment of controversy on the stroke of-half time, when referee Strebre Delovski pointed to the penalty spot after goalkeeper Thomas Sorensen nudged Stefan Mauk off the ball inside the penalty area.
Replays suggested the ball was outside the field of play at the time of the incident, but Reds’ striker Bruce Djite duly converted from the spot, effectively ending City’s quest for a first Premiers’ Plate success.
The result will see City finish outside the top-two, with the Club's Elimination Final opponent to be decided at the conculsion of the final round, when the A-League finals fixture is announced.
van’t Schip made only two changes to the team which faced Perth in Round 26, with Jacob Melling and Connor Chapman replacing Anthony Caceres and the injured Michael Zullo.
City headed into the clash boasting a 10 match unbeaten streak at AAMI Park and with a win enough to move into first place on the table, van’t Schip’s men knew it was an opportunity to ramp up the pressure on Premiership rivals Brisbane and Western Sydney ahead of their respective final round fixtures.
However, the quest for a crucial win got off to the worst possible start as the Reds hit the ground running with the opening goal inside four minutes.
A dangerous run from Marcelo Carrusca drew a foul from Patrick Kisnorbo on the very edge of the penalty area, with Isaias making City pay with a perfectly executed free-kick which nestled into the bottom corner.
City struggled to gain any sort of fluency in possession in the early stages of the first half, as the Reds controlled proceedings in the middle of the park through the intelligent duo of Isaias and Carrusca.
Melbourne’s first meaningful chance of the match arrived in the 17th minute when Harry Novillo was brought down in a dangerous position by Craig Goodwin.
In an almost identical position to his glorious free-kick against Western Sydney earlier this season, the Frenchman curled in an effort towards the bottom corner, but was denied by an alert Eugene Galekovic.
Sorensen did well to prevent Goodwin’s blistering free-kick from finding the back of the net before bouncing up quickly to smother the rebound, while Galekovic was the backbone of a firm Reds’ rear-guard, denying Kisnorbo’s goal bound header with a brilliant reaction save.
But the game’s controversial moment occurred right on the stroke of half-time as Sorensen’s seemingly innocuous clash with Mauk resulted in a penalty, with Djite making no mistake from the spot to deal City a hammer blow.
City came out with renewed endeavour after the break but were unable to penetrate a resolute Adelaide defence, as van’t Schip’s men now turn their attention to the Finals Series in a weeks’ time.
Hyundai A-League Round 25
Monday, 28 March 2016
Melbourne City FC 0
Adelaide United 2 (ISAIAS 4’, Bruce DJITE 45’ [PEN])
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Strebre Delovski
Melbourne City FC line-up: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 2. Alexander WILKINSON (Anthony CACERES 71’), 4. Connor CHAPMAN (Jack CLISBY 62’), 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 8. Aaron MOOY, 9. 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 24. Patrick KISNORBO (C), 25. Jacob MELLING (Marc MARINO 46’), 27. Nick FITZGERALD, 33. Osama MALIK
Substitutes not used: 20. Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 18. Paulo RETRE,
Yellow cards: Kisnorbo 42’, Sorensen 45’, Novillo 46’
Red cards: nil
Adelaide United line-up: 1. Eugene GALEKOVIC (GK), 2. Michael MARRONE, 3. Iacopo LA ROCCA, 4. Dylan MCGOWAN, 6. Stefan MAUK, 8. ISAIAS, 9. Sergio CIRIO, 10. Marcelo CARRUSCA (Mate DUGANDZIC 82’), 11. Bruce DJITE, 16. Craig GOODWIN, 24. Bruce KAMAU (Pablo SANCHEZ 67’)
Substitutes not used: 20. John HALL (GK), 14. George MELLS, 23. Jordan ELSEY.
Yellow cards: Djite 25’, La Rocca 29’, Isaias 31’, Mauk 46’
Red Cards: nil