21/04/2024

Trailing by one goal at half-time, Sydney FC came back into the match to draw with Adelaide United. (Photo: Sydney FC)

The last match of Round 3 provided a game that fans will remember for all the wrong reasons. Despite an unusual decision from the referee, Adelaide United held on with ten players to draw 2-2 with Sydney FC.

Desperate for a win, both teams brought their all to Allianz Stadium in a physical and attacking battle.

Adelaide United came into the game looking for their first back-to-back wins against Sydney FC since 2015. Yet to register a win in season 2022/23, their intensity showed especially in the first half.

Back at home and in front of ‘The Cove’, Sydney FC was looking to move into the top three on the table. The match provided great individual skill, controversial decisions from the referee, and a classic second half which included three goals.

In the first real opportunity of the game, Craig Goodwin found the head of Ben Warland with a precise corner, Warland missed the left post by mere inches. Despite the miss, the Reds continued to pressure the Sky Blues’ defenders and were an attacking threat.

The continuous pressure in their attacking half put the Sky Blues on the back foot. Filled with confidence, fullback Ryan Kitto was able to break the deadlock through a bit of magic.

A mainstay of the United team since 2016 dribbled past not one, not two but four defenders before slotting the ball into the net.

It was only his 14th-ever goal in A-League history. The Adelaide hometown hero made sure it was one to be remembered, scoring with such skill, agility, speed, quickness and accuracy.

In a glimmer of hope for the home team, the momentum shifted out of nowhere. Trying to regather the ball, Hiroshi Ibusuki accidentally clipped the boots of Anthony Caceres.

Instead of being allowed just a free kick for the accident, the referee decided to send Ibusuki off the field. The controversial send-off by referee Daniel Elder changed the game for both sides.

“We’re spending a lot of time talking about a decision that had an impact on the game instead of talking about two good footballing sides playing a nice, open game of football,” Adelaide United coach Carl Veart said.

“I believe it was a mistake, but I think that’s why we have VAR, to overrule decisions like that.

“We’ve got to be careful that we don’t sanitise the game too much. It is a contact sport.”

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Bogged down after a tumultuous start, Sydney tried to muster up an offence in its attacking half led by young gun Patrick Wood.

The current U23 Australian squad member came into the game early off the bench for an injured Adam Le Fondre. After a modest performance, Sydney FC coach Steve Corica praised Wood’s ability.

“I thought he was lively. He did really well dropping off the front line combining with players,” Corica said.

“He scored a good goal, and probably had another very good chance.

“I think the one-on-one with the keeper if he would have slotted that I think it would have been great for his confidence.”

Straight out of the blocks, Sydney was a different team in the second half. Going in with an extra player, it mounted attack after attack on the Adelaide defence.

After a strong presence in their attacking half, the Sky Blues were finally able to portray it on the scoreboard.

Englishman Joe Lolley added his second goal of the year after a nice one-two combination with Anthony Caceres. It was followed by a Patrick Wood goal after an assist from Joe Lolley. This made the score 2-1 as the Sky Blues took the lead for the first time in the game.

Rejuvenated by Lolley’s goal and the atmosphere of the home crowd, Sydney kept looking dangerous. It was finally able to grab another goal less than five minutes later.

Taking advantage of the extra man, Lolley was able to get room on the right-hand side of the box. After receiving the ball, he played a nice ball to Wood who slotted it away in the net.

Not to be outdone by its opposition, Adelaide was quick to react. Down for the first time in the game, it decided to continue its attacking style of play.

The equaliser came from former Sydney FC defender Harry van der Saag. A cross from Goodwin found him breaking through the defending line and Saag was in the right place at the right time.

Both goalkeepers were kept on their toes for the majority of the match, making crucial saves at different stages throughout the game.

Adelaide and Sydney had chances to get ahead at different points in the second half.

The best opportunity being from the energetic and lively Patrick Wood. Making it past the last line of defence he only had to beat Joe Gauci. However, the Adelaide keeper had other ideas.

Gauci has become Carl Veart’s first-choice goalkeeper. Growing up in the Central Coast Mariners system, he had a breakout season for United last season which saw him earn a spot in the U23 Australia side.

“He’s a very young goalkeeper. We got to still remember that he’s going to make mistakes but he’s learning. Tonight, I thought he was fantastic,” Veart said.

“It’s always difficult when you’re a young player, once you’ve had a sort of breakout season to back it up the next season. Joe (Gauci) so far this year has been tremendous for us.”

With Gauci in net, Adelaide was able to stay in the game. (Photo: Adelaide United)

As the clock winded down, frustrations boiled over. Five yellow cards were shown as the match got more physical.

The home team had the last opportunity of the match from two free kicks but were unsuccessful in their attempts.

Sydney FC will have a tough battle next weekend playing away against Macarthur FC. Both teams sit in the middle of the table, aiming for a top-four position. Travelling back home to South Australia, Adelaide United face Perth Glory as they look for their first victory of the season.

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