Melbourne City’s hopes of achieving a third place finish remain alive after defeating Adelaide United 1-0 at AAMI Park on Friday night, courtesy of another Tim Cahill header.
The Socceroos striker rose highest to nod home Nicolas Colazo’s piercing corner with a spectacular looping header to register his ninth league goal of the campaign.
It’s not the first time Cahill’s forehead has proven to be the difference – the goal was his sixth header of the season – but City were the dominant force throughout a lively end to end contest as Michael Valkanis’ side registered a vital three points.
A fourth clean sheet of the season was an added bonus for a City rearguard who defended stoutly, as was the return of Danish defender Michael Jakobsen, who oozed class and experience in his return to first team action.
The result sees City remain in the hunt for a third placed finish, drawing level with Brisbane Roar on 39 points, with the Queensland side set to face fellow finals aspirants Perth Glory at nib Stadium on Saturday evening.
Head Coach Michael Valkanis made four changes from last week’s defeat to Sydney, as Neil Kilkenny and Osama Malik returned from suspension and injury respectively, while Bruce Kamau came in on his favoured right wing.
But perhaps the most important inclusion was that of defender Jakobsen. The experienced Dane, fully recovered from a calf injury which kept him on the sidelines for nine matches, provided a much needed boost for a defensive unit starved of regularity in recent weeks.
City, needing to win to stay in the hunt for third place, made an encouraging start to the match as Kilkenny saw a goalbound header from Luke Brattan’s searching cross deflected for a corner.
Valkanis’ side began the match at an electric tempo, pressing high up the pitch and denying Adelaide the ability to settle into any kind of rhythm in possession.
Such pressure brought about the first clear chance inside the opening five minutes as Nicolas Colazo hunted down an errant backpass from Tarik Elrich, who then released Kamau on goal with a delightful outside of the boot pass.
The winger, who only had Galekovic to beat, lacked precision with his finish as his effort sailed over the bar.
It was the wakeup call the visitors required as the Reds soon worked their way into the contest, with Isaias and Marcelo Carrusca combining to carve out some dangerous opportunities down the right flank.
There was a moment of mayhem in the City area as Bouzanis clattered a pack to claim a corner, with the City keeper standing tall to deny a toe poke at goal from Iacopo La Rocca in the ensuing chaos.
The visitors were dealt a significant blow after 25 minutes when Tarek Elrich was stretchered off with a serious knee injury after a clash with Malik, as City continued to press forward in search of the opening goal.
Brattan first stung the palms of Galekovic with a blistering strike from distance, before Bruno Fornaroli shot tamely into the arms of the Adelaide goalkeeper after a neat move with Kamau down the right.
Colazo nearly caught Galekovic off guard moments later with a teasing cross which the Reds stopper parried out for a corner, and it was from the resulting set piece in which City found the opener.
A superb driven cross from Colazo found Cahill at the near post, who nodded a perfectly weighted glancing header over the static Galekovic to give City the lead.
Kamau nearly doubled City’s advantage minutes before the half-time break, skipping past Dylan McGowan before unleashing a scorching strike that produced a magnificent diving save from Galekovic.
The winger was a livewire on the right flank and nearly gave City a dream start to the second half, twisting and turning past the Adelaide defence before blazing narrowly over the bar.
A one goal lead is precarious to say the least, and City dodged a tracer bullet when Bouzanis’ stray pass was intercepted by Baba Diawara, before Isaias fired Adelaide’s best chance of the match over the bar.
Fornaroli curled a set piece which Galekovic plucked out of the top corner, and the Reds’ stopper also stood tall to deny substitute Nick Fitzgerald in injury time, but the damage was already done as City kick-started the its run to the Finals Series with an important win.
The race for third place will go down to the wire as City travel to nib Stadium to face Perth Glory in the final match of the Hyundai A-League season, kick-off at 7:00pm (AEST), 5:00pm local.
Hyundai A-League – Round 26
Friday 7 April 2017
Melbourne City FC 1 (Tim CAHILL 36’)
Adelaide United 0
Venue: AAMI Park, Melbourne
Referee: Kris Griffith-Jones
Melbourne City FC: 20. Dean BOUZANIS (GK), 3. Josh Rose, 5. Ivan FRANJIC, 6. Osama MALIK, 8. Neil KILKENNY, 9. Nicolas COLAZO (12. Nick FITZGERALD 77’), 11. Bruce KAMAU, 17. Tim CAHILL (10. Anthony Caceres 64’), 22. Michael JAKOBSEN, 23. Bruno FORNAROLI, 26. Luke BRATTAN
Substitutes not used: 1. Thomas SORENSEN (GK), 2. Manny MUSCAT, 18. Paulo RETRE
Yellow cards: nil
Red cards: nil
Head Coach: Michael Valkanis
Adelaide United: 1. Eugene GALEKOVIC (GK), 2. Michael MARRONE, 3. Iacopo LA ROCCA, 4. Dylan MCGOWAN, 8. ISAIAS, 9. Papa DIAWARA, 10. Marcelo CARRUSCA, 11. Sergio CIRIO (92. Eli BABALJ 79’), 18. Riley MCGREE (7. JaeSUNG KIM 70’), 19. Ben GARUCCIO, 21. Tarek ELRICH (17. Nicola MILEUSNIC 24’)
Substitutes not used: 30. Daniel MARGUSH (GK), 5. Taylor REGAN
Yellow cards: LaRocca 34’, Isaias 45’, McGree 68’, Garuccio 84’
Red cards: nil
Head coach: Gui Amor