Adelaide United will face Perth Glory for a spot in the A-League grand final after downing Melbourne City 1-0 at Coopers Stadium courtesy of a Ben Halloran goal late in extra time Sunday.
Ben Halloran produced the first meaningful look on goal when he was played in wonderfully by Craig Goodwin before crashing his shot into the crossbar from the edge of the area, and then delivered the crushing blow to send the Reds through with minutes to spare.
After a somewhat quiet opening 45 minutes, both teams burst out of the blocks after the interval with efforts on target from Riley McGree and Craig Goodwin at either end within the first two minutes.
The game went to extra time as both sides continued to lack conviction in front of goal, and after 15 minutes of similarly uninspiring football, the second period of extra time sprung to life somewhat.
Shayon Harrison had a powerful left-footed strike saved by the mere finger tips of Paul Izzo while Halloran went up the other end and sent a shot on goal that squirmed through Eugene Galekovic’s legs and stopped against the post.
Fittingly it was Halloran who hit the winner for the hosts in agonisingly unlucky fashion for City as Ritchie De Laet felt his hamstring when reaching to intercept a pass allowing the Reds to carry on into the box, shifting it over to Halloran on the right who slid the ball into the bottom right corner.
Good luck next week
Even before the original 90 minutes were up, it became apparent that whoever would finish the game victorious would have their work cut out against Perth based on the quality of their performance.
Neither team really created anything of great significance in two hours of football in a slow, sloppy game, especially for an elimination final.
It seemed as though both sides were fearful of leaving themselves open to going behind in the match rather than looking for the opener themselves as they defended well but failed to offer the same quality in the final third.
Perth Glory have been dominant in the A-League this season and have beaten teams comfortably even when not at their own fluid best, and with Tony Popovic in the stands at Cooper’s Stadium, he will fancy his chances of beating Adelaide in the semi-final.
The last of Warren Joyce?
The former member of Sir Alex Ferguson’s backroom staff at Manchester United has been heavily criticised throughout this campaign and vastly linked with a move away from City, with a return to Manchester even believed to be on the cards.
The general consensus among City fans and neutrals alike is that Joyce should and will not return to AAMI Park next season.
Joyce joined having last managed Wigan in 2017 and has failed to push the club forward in two seasons at the helm, failing to reach the top two nor a grand final, even with the wealth of financial backing from City football group and the host of talent he has had at his disposal.
When Jamie Maclaren and Harrison joined in January it seemed as though those moves would propel City forward and prime them for a positive end to the season, but the lack of consistency behind those two became the team’s achilles heel.
His unwillingness to give consistent minutes to the talented youngsters such as Ramy Najjarine and Connor Metcalfe has also been the subject of outcry from the City faithful, and with this defeat, it could well be the last City and the A-League sees of Joyce.
Adelaide get Melburnian revenge
The Reds were knocked out of the finals by City’s crosstown rivals Melbourne Victory last season, losing 2-1 at AAMI Park to a Besart Berisha overhead kick in the dying embers after they had been leading.
A home final this time round offered Adelaide the chance for redemption, and although the performance was far from convincing, the Cooper’s Stadium faithful are able to celebrate an elimination final win at the hands of Melbourne opposition.
Halloran and Goodwin linked up in what was the most effective combination for either side by some distance, the latter dropping deep to receive the ball and using his skill and vision to find Halloran running in behind the defence.
Isaias and Mirko Boland edged the midfield battle for the hosts as they held 53% of the possession, but lacked the consistent quality moving forward, as did the majority of their teammates.
Marco Kurz will know that there is much work to be done if he is to make the grand final in his final season as Adelaide boss, with the imperious Perth blocking their path towards a fairy tale ending.