23/04/2024

It was a second successive comeback for Melbourne Victory as they progress to the FFA Cup Semi-Finals. (Photos: Adelaide United/Twitter; FFA Cup/Twitter)

The future of Adelaide United was well on show, but they quickly came unstuck as the Victory's experience took over.

In another COVID-19 affected clash, Adelaide United was forced into heavy changes, which may have ultimately been its downfall.

United’s Michael Jakobsen and Yaya Dukuly were both ruled out with COVID-19, while veteran defensive-midfielder Isaias was rested ahead of the second Original Rivalry clash of the week on Saturday. Joe Caletti and 16-year-old goalkeeper Steven Hall were given starts in their place.

It was a host of experienced changes for Melbourne Victory though, with only Leighton Brooks retaining his starting spot from the Victory’s 2-1 win over the Gold Coast Knights in the previous round. They looked to that experience early on against the youth of their fierce rivals.

Despite the rotated side, the youthful Reds pinned Victory back for the majority of the opening 15 minutes. But against the run of play, it was the Victory who had a golden chance at the 16th minute, with right-back Jason Geria squandering his header after a delightful ball from Jake Brimmer.

The early chance flicked the switch for the away side, who dominated a 15-minute stanza until the 30th minute where a chance fell to United. A brilliant block from Geria offered him some redemption, and kept the scores level.

Shortly after the missed opportunity, Craig Goodwin fired the home side in front with an emphatic free-kick. The Adelaide veteran bent the ball around the wall, and his shot beat Ivan Kelava at the near post.

Adelaide picked up where it left off in the first half, and nearly added a second as a Josh Cavallo shot nearly snuck over Kelava.

It was long after though that Melbourne Victory introduced Josh Brillante, who made an instant impact at Coopers Stadium.

Jake Brimmer floated in another beautiful ball, which fell right to the path of the uncontested Brillante, who then only had to prod the ball home for Victory’s leveller on the 61st minute, once again shifting the tide.

The away side had their own golden opportunity late on when Francesco Margiotta converted from the penalty spot to take the lead with what was ultimately the decider.

Another match, another game where youth shines

Injuries, COVID-19 and general unavailabilities have plagued the entire league, and have caused massive headaches for A-League Men managers. They’ve had to dive deep into their club’s youth stocks, giving players opportunities to play first-team football when they may not have even dreamed of it otherwise.

United’s Steven Hall was given his A-League Men debut against Wellington Phoenix on Saturday, and duly impressed.

He dealt with the pressure of becoming the A-League Men’s youngest ever keeper well, performing when tested by the Phoenix forwards, and he stood up again in the Cup.

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The teenager showed his ability as a shot-stopper all evening, making a great save of a Brendan Hamill shot late in the first half. Hall wasn’t the only youngster to impress though.

Josh Cavallo was consistently bombing down the left wing from a wide-midfield position, and he was ever so close to scoring his first ever professional goal when his cross just skimmed the crossbar.

But despite conceding two goals on the evening, Hall can once again be very proud of himself, as he showed why young Australian keepers and players in general need opportunities to shine on the big stage.

A shot at silverware looms for Tony Popovic

A shot at silverware is finally back on the cards for Melbourne Victory. After an absence of being away from major competition finals, coach Tony Popovic will be hoping that he can guide his side to a Cup Final something and continue their internal and external upwards trajectory.

Popovic has done extremely well with his Victory squad so far, steering back-to-back comebacks and now two successive Original Derby wins on away turf.

Grant Brebner’s Victory side of 2020/21 certainly would have certainly failed in the same scenario, after winning just five games and drawing four.

It is impressive how quickly Popovic has changed the culture around at a club that was heavily affected by large losses to rivals, especially surrounded by a club and a fanbase that demanded change quickly.

Goodwin re-enters Socceroos frame

30-year-old Goodwin now has three goals in his last two matches, and should certainly should be on the radar of Socceroos head coach Graham Arnold. The national team has recently struggled to score goals in important matches of late, putting his name in consideration.

With a double against the Phoenix joined by another goal tonight in spectacular style, the winger from South Australia is in brilliant form.

He is now third in the league for expected goals, with 3.0, and is second in the league for key passes, averaging three per game. He also leads a number of stats for Adelaide United.

Goodwin is currently the clubs top goal scorer, with two goals in this A-League Men campaign to go with one assist. Since re-joining the Reds on loan in February 2021, the 30-year-old has scored 10 goals in 24 games, also making five assists last season in addition to his healthy scoring contribution.

Melbourne Victory has now confirmed their place in the FFA Cup Semi-Finals. The FFA Cup Semi-Final draw takes place on the January 6 at 12pm (AEDT).

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