21/04/2024
Carl Veart. Picture: AUFC Media

Adelaide United coach Carl Veart. Photo Credit: Adelaide United

With Perth leading 3-2 with moments left, it looked the story of United’s season.

Another defeat, more dropped points and another opportunity missed at home. But it’s never over until the final whistle.

The wonderkid, the 18-year-old Panagiotis Kikianis, stepped up to bail United out in their second of need.

Deep in added time, the centre-back would level the game. The ball bundled over the line for a 3-3 draw and United rescued the most unlikely point.

“I’ve worked with Pana (Kikianis) when he was younger, he’s a great leader. He’s been given an opportunity a little bit earlier than what we expected it to be,” United coach Carl Veart said.

“We’ve got bits and pieces that we need to keep working with him. He’s a very good passer of the ball and he defended quite well tonight.

“We will have a look again this week at his game and what areas we can help him with.”

Coming into the game, Perth, just one week earlier had rolled the sixth-placed Melbourne City at home, a 4-2 win. Adelaide had on the other hand, had not won since Unite Round, nearly one month ago.

Just moments into the game, Ben Warland landed a heavy blow to Adam Taggart, an elbow to the back, before running his knee into the back of the Glory player’s head.

Physicality clearly looked like the order of the day. Warland received just a verbal warning from the referee.

For the opener, it was a case of leading from the front. Kitto’s ninth minute cross was an absolute peach of a delivery to find Hiroshi Ibusuki’s head for yet another one of his goals.

United’s lead was well deserved. After they absorbed the Perth pressure, the Reds were able to capitalise from the opportunity created.

This was something they lacked in recent weeks, especially against Central Coast.

Minutes later, Clough’s cross would lead to chaos in the box, and it would again be Ibusuki drawing a foul after being clattered into by opposition keeper Oliver Sail.

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Clough stepped up to take the penalty. He was able to put the ball right in the bottom of the box, the penalty’s execution was unsavable.

Perth was quickly forgetting about the glory of last Friday, while Adelaide’s upturn of form was beginning to unite the fans.

The order for physicality continued as the half progressed.

In minute 20, Stefan Mauk was fouled in the middle of the ground, having caught a high elbow to the
back of the head.

Alexander Susnjar was the player who committed the foul and picked up a yellow card, despite many of the United players feeling the referee could’ve drawn a red.

The 30th minute mark would see Perth’s lifeline restored. Colli’s cross was headed on at the near post, which lead to Adam Taggart’s 10th goal of the season. United 2, Perth 1.

Hiroshi would nearly find the immediate United response, but a save from Sail would stop the Japanese striker from scoring and keep the seas at bay for Glory.

Clough’s shot in the 38th minute was another that Sail would save.

The Englishman was driving at the byline and was able to hit the ball straight across at the near post, Sail kept it out.

Clough wasn’t done yet and would have a chance to head the ball at goal from inside the box, the ball flew straight at Sail from the header.

Perth was under constant United pressure as the half drew on. United had one more opportunity before the half drew to a closed.

United’s dazzling passes cut through the Perth defence before Clough’s cross into the front post landed on Hiroshi’s back heal.

A sprawling Sail was just able to keep it out as groans rang out across the stadium. Adelaide still leading 2-1 as the main break began.

United’s dominance couldn’t be understated. They had more possession, shots on target, passes and final third entrees. Basically, wherever it was important, United led every statistic in the book.

Delianov was quickly adjusting to life as Adelaide’s number one.

Minutes into the second half, he stopped Adam Taggart from drawling Perth level. The shot was straight at Delianov in the end. The save was met with applause from the United fans.

As the hour mark came and both teams felt it was time for a change. United would take off Alagich and Cavallo, while applause welcomed Nestory Irankunda onto the field. He was joined by Halloran.

For Perth, Williams would come on for Carluccio.

In a half in which Perth was dominant.

It was from the corner that Perth would level the scoreline. Williams had only just come on and was running into the 18-yard box.

He hit the ball into the ground and watched it roll into the back of the net. It was a case of first touch, first goal for Williams.

For Perth, they had turned a 2-0 deficit into a winning position. There was plenty of time left, with over 20 minutes of normal time to play.

A poor clearance in the 73rd minute gave the 18-year-old Nestory Irankunda a massive opportunity. He unloaded a rocket from outside the box, unable to finish.

Moments later he got two more chances, the touch from Sail taking his diagonal pass away from Ibusuki in the six-yard box.

While another run into the box would end when the number 66 would foul a Perth defender. A hectic passage of play would see Perth hit the post from Bennie, with Williams unable to put the follow through away.

The ball travelled from end to end in a second half full of action.

Returning from the Netherlands, it was Rawlings with a third for Perth. He would hit the ball with so much power that it couldn’t be saved and watched as it nestled into the top corner.

Perth’s glory would last just moments, as up the other end the United pressure didn’t stop. When the football found the hand of Luke Bodnar in the box, Stefan Mauk would step up for the penalty. Mauk’s shot was saved, Sail dived to the left to keep the shot out.

Irankunda found himself in the book after he collided with Taggart, taking him to ground.

The Perth player on a run toward the Adelaide 18-yard box. Tempers flared all over Hindmarsh, especially in the stands. Nestory’s yellow doing very little to quell the Red Army’s rage.

Deep in six minutes of added time, Perth’s fourth was chalked off after Kamau found the ball on the wing, he crossed it back inside for Taggart. The goal scorer would get it past Delianov, but not past the linesman’s flag, 3-2 Perth.

Over to Adelaide…

A foul against Kitto on the end of the box would give United one last chance.

Nestory Irankunda’s free kick would get a corner, the ball crashing into the wall, then over the touchline.

In the 98th minute of the game, the corner would come in. Up stepped Panagiotis Kikianis, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The ball
coming off the centre back in just his second game, Giordani Colli unable to stop it from crossing the line.

The Roar at Hindmarsh was deafening, United salvaging points, Perth, again stopped in the final moments of the game, coach Alen Stajcic airing frustrations post match.

“Barring the last 10 seconds of each match, we could’ve been in maybe third or fourth position. I think we’re punching below our weight at the moment,” he said.

The round would end with United having slipped to ninth place on the ladder. While Perth stayed only above the lowly Western United, sitting in 11th place.

Perth’s next game against the Brisbane Roar in Perth couldn’t be at worse time for Glory. Brisbane coming off a 5-1 thumping of Melbourne City, after some poor form in the weeks previous.

Adelaide will also not go in as favourites against Sydney FC in Sydney. The NSW outfit just beat arguably the most inform team in the competition over the past month, Central Coast in a 3-1 win.

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