A first Melbourne City goal for Jamie Maclaren cancelled out Craig Goodwin’s opener for Adelaide United in a 1-1 draw at AAMI Park on Saturday night in the teams’ crunch top six clash.
An air swing from Florin Berenguer when played in behind by debutant Shayon Harrison on 35 minutes somewhat summed up what was a dull opening 45 minutes at that point, and things struggled to pick up for the remainder of the night.
The first opening of the game and first piece of linkup play between Harrison and Maclaren on 39 minutes saw the promise of their partnership going forward when the former flicked the latter in on goal, only for the ball to be fired wide.
Harrison Delbridge’s strong run nearly resulted in a Luke Brattan volley rippling the net, but his crisp strike was dragged agonisingly wide of the left-hand post.
Straight up the other end, Adelaide scored what was a goal against the run of play given the preceding few minutes, with Nikola Mileusnic bursting past Delbridge before delivering a delightful cross which Goodwin headed onto the crossbar and narrowly over the line.
Harrison unleashed a powerful volley just before the hour mark as the goal opened up for him, but the ball flew just over the bar and into the stands.
Maclaren brought his new side level with just over 20 minutes to play when an Adelaide calamity playing out of the back allowed Brattan to cut the ball back to the Socceroo, who diverted tidily into the net with a back-heel finish.
REVIEW | The Mac returns! But his goal was only good enough for one point.
— Daily Football Show (@DFS_AUS) February 9, 2019
Return of the Mac
It took time for it to eventuate, but when it did, City fans loved what they saw as their new talisman wheeled away in celebration for the first time in the sky blue shirt. Playing his first football after what was seen universally as an uninspiring Asian Cup campaign, the 25-year-old seemed again to not be setting the world alight in his debut, but as with all good strikers, he needed only one chance.
The creation of the goal began with his characteristic pressing, placing Paul Izzo under sufficient duress at the back to cause the error upon which Brattan pounced. The finish was one that looks apparently simple but in practice is quite complex, with the presence of mind and quick thinking to creatively flick the ball past Izzo and across the line.
After 11 years playing abroad with the likes of Darmstadt and Hibernian, Maclaren marked his return to Australian football by doing what he does best – scoring goals – which was what saw him venture across to Europe after impressing with Brisbane Roar.
As he settles under new management and alongside the fresh faces he has encountered in the City team, better performances will come for J-Mac, and more goals can be expected.
J-Mac is back!
— Hyundai A-League (@ALeague) February 9, 2019
Not so joyous for Thomassen
At the other end, Adelaide’s brand new striking acquisition Jordy Thomassen fell short of igniting great anticipation in the Reds faithful in his debut appearance after signing on loan from De Graafschap in the Dutch Eredivisie.
As his side drifted in and out of the game in terms of controlling possession and forward momentum, the Dutchman struggled similarly to impact the game sufficiently for extended periods.
His first touch often let him down in promising areas, while he failed to provide a tangible source of linkup play as he neither offered frequent support when dropping deep to receive nor found good areas in behind the City defence.
Adelaide fans had been screaming for a new striker throughout the January transfer window and felt that their prayers had been answered with the announcement of Thomassen’s signature, but perhaps now will be made to wait to see their new man impress.
Thomassen has plenty of games to improve upon his first and long enough to gain momentum heading into the finals as he acclimatises himself to the way Marco Kurz plays.
— Adelaide United (@AdelaideUnited) February 9, 2019
For both sides, winning this game would have meant a lot in the context of their season as they jostle to achieve the highest placing possible heading into the finals. With 20 minutes to play, Adelaide were set to bridge a gap between themselves and their opponents, with their lead to take them five points clear of City and just one game back from Sydney in third.
Instead, the Reds lost focus and were perhaps thankful for having claimed the point as the home side pressed and came closest to winning the game at 1-1. Warren Joyce’s team were made to rue a slow start and a lack of cutting edge in the final third as they allowed United to go in front before the half-time interval, having began to garner more control of the match.
This match saw the potential for City to leapfrog Adelaide into fourth and take the lead in their battle for a home final come the post season, but again an opportunity was missed.
Whilst it was a point gained for both teams, the real feeling heading back into the changing rooms would be what could have been and the respective gaps between the teams above and below, as Adelaide now have a five point mountain to climb in pursuit of Sydney FC, and Wellington Phoenix will be breathing down Melbourne’s sitting just a point behind.