IT’S a damn pity the A-League doesn’t have a clause in its rules to invite a wildcard to its finals series.
Because if it did Adelaide United would surely giving every club vying for the championship a real nudge at the business end of the season after a brilliant 60 minutes.
Adelaide was incredibly irresistible on a balmy Easter Saturday perhaps because it had absolutely nothing to lose but then when the hour mark arrived the Reds were in predictable trouble after tiring dramatically.
Before that in the club’s last match of the 2016/17 season as its title defence came to a close many were wondering why United was at this stage of the season fighting to avoid the wooden spoon rather than having a crack at consecutive championships.
Adelaide drew 2-2 with Western Sydney at Coopers Stadium in a display which was full of energy and vigour as the Reds probably played with Marcelo Carrusca and Iacopo La Rocca for the last time.
In a potentially fitting finale Carrusca scored the opening goal from the penalty spot when the clash was nine minutes old after Eli Babalj was dealt a brash challenge from Aritz Borda inside the box.
Dylan McGowan made it 2-0 to score his fourth goal of the season and lead the Reds goal scoring chart after Wanderers couldn’t deal with a Carrusca corner before a Sergio Cirio shot was turned in by the centre back.
Reds skipper Eugene Galekovic then had his time to bask in glory when he repelled a Nicolas Martinez spot kick in first half stoppage time to keep the score at 2-0 after Iacopo La Rocca handled a Shannon Cole cross inside the box.
Martinez may have been put off by the sight of a fan baring his backside behind the goals before the spot kick but nonetheless Galekovic proved that at 35 he isn’t quite done as a professional when he expertly saved the ball.
But former Adelaide midfielder Steven Lustica crashing a 22m free kick against the crossbar in the 64th minute before Wanderers’ Dimas nodded the rebound home threatened to turn the game on its ear.
Lustica then equalised from the penalty spot in the 75th minute after La Rocca fouled Cole inside the box.
But the match had it all including sickening challenges which saw an unsuspecting Riley McGree smack into the back of Wanderers’ Bruno Pinatares.
The 18-year-old got straight back up shoved some gauze in his mouth and carried on much to the delight of the fans, applauding a brilliant opening half performance from the hosts
But the pressure was off Adelaide just before kick off when Newcastle Jets failed to get off dungeon floor to firmly hold the wooden spoon after a 2-0 loss to Sydney FC.
Wanderers needed to beat Adelaide by four goals to give United a chance of ‘winning’ the wooden spoon but United was highly motivated from the off with a brand of football seen many times last season but not too often during this one.
But Adelaide was breathtaking in the first half looking totally refreshed after a brilliant 3-1 AFC Champions League win over Jeju United in South Korea on Tuesday.
Jordan O’Doherty’s courage when the 170cm winger sniffed out an opportunity between two towering Wanderers figures to create an unlikely chance to score was a catalyst as Adelaide had Wanderers chasing shadows despite the visitors deploying a high press.
O’Doherty bravely stuck out a leg probably where most wouldn’t dare in the first half between Wanderers defender Keanu Baccus and gloveman Vedran Janjetovic, stealing the ball but was foiled just as the teenager was about to pull the trigger in the 26th minute.
McGree also showed that has so much more in his CV other than courage when his timing came to the fore in the 16th minute as he smacked an 18m volley towards Janjetovic which gratefully stuck to the keeper’s gloves.
A minute later Martinez waltzed through the Reds defence to unleash a 25m shot which whizzed just past the upright leaving Galekovic flat footed.
A-LEAGUE – ROUND 27
Adelaide United 2 (Marcelo Carrusca 10m, Dylan McGowan 39m) Western Sydney 2 (Dimas 64, Steven Lustica 75m) 2 at Coopers Stadium – Referee: Chris Beath – Crowd: 7636.
Originally published as Reds fail to send legends out winners
SOURCE: newsnow sport