Even without Isaias on the field, Adelaide United managed to hold the majority of the ball in another splitting of the points with Melbourne City.
It was the exact same result as when the two sides met in November, coming away in another entertaining 2-2 draw. The match up is quickly becoming one of the must watch fixtures on the A-League Men calendar.
Both sides can take positives away from this encounter, but at the same time both sets of coaches, players and fans would believe they could have won the three points in the end.
Making the most of time on the ball
United held the majority of possession with 56 per cent, as has so often been the case this season. In a common theme for United, the supremacy in possession was not used to its full potential, but that changed when Carl Veart went to his bench and City went down to 10 men.
The midfield has been a contentious issue all season, with a lot of quality present but a lot of ideas about how to get the most out of it.
Juande started the game alongside Joe Caletti, who replaced Isaias in the lineup. They did a great job winning challenges, retrieving, and distributing the ball for United on the night.
The challenges lay offensively. With captain Stefan Mauk giving it his all, playing out of position until his outgoing transfer is concerned, he and the other Adelaide attacking players need a dynamic midfielder in the middle of the park that can link defence to attack more seamlessly.
Josh Cavallo is a player that played that role strongly last season before being converted to a fullback. With Ryan Kitto showing he is capable at left back, maybe it is time to give Cavallo another shot in the engine room.
United’s way forward on show
With Adelaide United fans concerned about two important outgoing players, the way forward was clear and on show off the bench for the Reds against City.
New arrivals Lachlan Brook and Hiroshi Ibusuki were subbed on and their impact was felt.
Brook was always willing to get on the ball in his short cameo, and won the ball back a couple of times for United in the midfield. With Mauk expected to leave for Japan this month, Brook seems the natural replacement,
Carl Veart would be hoping that despite the loss of his captain, a naturally gifted attacker like Brook will be a better fit for the attacking midfield spot and will bring balance to his side.
Hiroshi Ibusuki is the next proposed solution to Adelaide’s striker problem. With Kusini Yengi injured and Mohamed Toure recovering from COVID-19, George Blackwood is working overtime upfront to fill that gap.
Unfortunately for Blackwood, coming up against City’s strong defence is no easy task. To his credit, Blackwood can hold his head up high for his goal and the penalty he earned.
When Ibusuki got subbed on, it finally felt like United had a presence upfront, 196 centimeters of presence. Despite not touching the ball much, Ibusuki was an ever present worry for City’s backline, with United constantly threatening to cross the ball to him.
The locals erupted when the ball fell in the box and Ibusuki turned it in on his debut. As he settles into life in Adelaide, the fans, teammates and coaches will be expecting Ibusuki’s presence, confidence and influence on games to grow.
Bernardo and Nestory Irankunda continued thrilling Reds’ fans on the wings. Even though it is not easy to replace a player with the quality of Ben Halloran, United’s young brigade will continue grabbing the opportunity with both hands.
Mathew Leckie has not faced the easiest return to the A-League Men competition. City fans have been disappointed with his output, with calls for youngster Marco Tilio to replace the Socceroo in the starting XI.
Patrick Kinsorbo maintained his strong support for the winger, stating, “I’ll continue to back him, the club will continue to support him, the players will support him, we love having him around”.
Leckie repaid his manager’s faith, producing both City goals on the night and removing some of the pressure that has been building on him.
It was not Leckie’s finest display, and he is yet to reach his lofty standards but it would be a huge relief for him and his coach that he managed to make a couple of positive contributions in the final third and help City earn a point away from home.
City’s focus now shifts to Sydney FC, and Leckie would be hoping he can replicate his impact in the Grand Final rematch. City fans are sure to start warming to the Socceroo if he can continue his positive contributions in the final third.
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Both sides of Tom Glover
Tom Glover is a talented goalkeeper in a champion side, but he is prone to mistakes. His talent has also been identified by Tottenham Hotspur, where he was picked up as a young footballer, and by the Australian national team youth setup, most recently by Graham Arnold.
Glover’s polarising form can make a real difference to City’s on field fortunes. Last time he faced Adelaide United, in injury time, Glover passed the ball to one of his defenders under pressure, with Ben Halloran managing to intercept the ball, chipping over Glover and snatching a point for United at the death.
This time around, Glover mishandled Goodwin’s stinging cross. It ended up at the feet of George Blackwood, who once again made the goalkeeper pay for his error.
In the same game, Glover stared down penalty specialist Craig Goodwin and saved his effort from the spot. It is definitely an impressive feat, considering a few weeks ago Goodwin scored two penalties against the Wellington Phoenix.
You do not need to look too far for the last time Glover’s heroics earned City a point. Despite conceding three times against the Wanderers last week, without Glover’s two point-blank, one-on-one saves, City would have dropped three points at home, and instead picked up one.
Even though Glover’s talent is clear, he must bridge the gap between his best and his worst to ensure that Melbourne City can maximize the amount of points they can pick up.
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