Newcastle goal scorer Jaushua Sotirio celebrates the game's solitary goal with teammate Angus Thurgate. (Image: A-League Men - Twitter)

The Newcastle Jets exposed the Reds’ Achilles’ heel on a scorching night in South Australia to soar into the top six.

After both Adelaide and Newcastle suffered their own pre-Christmas humbling defeats, the Reds away to Wellington Phoenix and the Jets to rivals Central Coast Mariners, the two sides had a chance to make amends when they clashed in the City of Churches.

While an Adelaide United victory would have seen Carl Veart’s side rise into second, an away Newcastle win would mean that Arthur Papas’ men joined the hosts on 12 points on the ladder, the tight margins the A-League Men’s operate in once again on display.

Despite the game being delayed by half an hour because of the conditions, the match kicked off with the temperature just shy of 40Β° Celsius.

With four drink breaks scheduled throughout the match, it begged the question of why an event would be conducted in conditions that require such drastic measures instead of it being postponed to a more suitable time for both players and fans alike.

The game began as expected with the home side taking control while the Jets absorbed pressure and looked to hit on the counter. Despite their attacking playstyle attracting admirers, the Jets have not earned many fans on the defensive side of the field but the first 15 minutes of this match told a different story.

Newcastle defended as a unit and ushered Adelaide out wide, with Craig Goodwin’s excellent deliveries into the box, something the hosts have grown reliant on, thwarted by Jets defender Mark Natta who did not give Hiroshi Ibusuki an inch in the air.

Soon after the game’s first drinks break, Adelaide United Active Support group, the Red Army, showed solidarity with the rest of the country’s supporter groups by walking out in the 20th minute, continuing to show their displeasure at the APL’s decision to sell the hosting right to Grand Finals to the New South Wales Government.

The walkout may have been a strong show of displeasure towards the APL, but it gave fans the added benefit of getting out of the heat while also missing out on the game’s opening goal that was scored by the visitors.

Minutes after the walkout, Juande’s standoffish marking of Kosta Grozos invited the midfielder to play the ball into the Reds’ box to Jaushua Sotirio who had evaded his marker, Ryan Kitto. The Jets forward blasted a shot that cruelly rebounded off the Reds’ Alex Popovic, leaving Joe Gauci helpless, only able to watch on as the away side opened the scoring.

The Jets entered the game having not kept a clean sheet in 10 matches (eight in the A-League Men and two in the Australia Cup) and with the Reds having a flare for scoring, especially at home where they had not lost for eight consecutive games, the game should have been far from over.

Knowing that Newcastle’s focus quickly switched to consolidating its advantage, Adelaide was invited to attack it, but could not convert on its heavy ownership of the ball.

Despite multiple close calls, the two sides entered the halftime break separated by Sotirio’s goal.

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During Carl Vart’s time as Adelaide United’s coach, most of his side’s strong play has come from wide areas. After Ben Halloran was sent off in his side’s previous encounter, Veart replaced him with Zach Clough, who returned from a long-term injury, in the starting XI to play out wide despite being primarily a central player.

With Clough tending to move towards the centre of the park, Veart substituted off midfielder Ethan Alagich at halftime for teen sensation Nestor Irankunda in hopes his side could rediscover the width it lost with Halloran’s absence.

The Reds once again began the half looking like the stronger side, but the Jets repelled everything they faced. Irankunda was well-shepherded into non-threatening positions, while Socceroo Craig Goodwin felt the heat, uncharacteristically delivering a couple of below-average crosses by his lofty standards.

Despite facing one of the league’s loosest defensive sides, the Reds could not find any answers in their attacking third of the field. The question remains if Goodwin is not playing at his best and the Reds cannot convert one or two of their many crosses, what does Adelaide United offer in an attacking sense?

Despite Mark Natta and Jordan Elsey admirably keeping their area clear of the chaos that the Reds are notorious for causing in the air, they had little to worry about from the middle of the park.

Newcastle ended the game celebrating its ascension into the top six, but Adelaide’s coaching team must seriously consider what their side can do when its crossing game is not bearing the fruits it expects.

A midfield base of Isaias and Juande may be vastly experienced and well-adept defensively but it leaves much to be desired going forward.

Both the Reds and the Jets now head into the new year on 12 points and seeking consistency.

Adelaide is hosting Perth while Newcastle welcomes Sydney, both teams will be seeing their respective games as opportunities to get points on the board, and in a league where finals spots will be decided by the tightest of margins, every point earned can make a big difference in the pointy end of the season.

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