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Late Cirio goal seals valuable win for Adelaide

An injury-time winner to Sergio Cirio has sealed a 2-1 win for Adelaide over Western Sydney, in oppressively hot conditions in the South Australian capital on Saturday night.

With the game seemingly destined for a draw, the Spaniard popped up on the penalty spot to fire home the winner in front of 9,212 fans at Coopers Stadium.

Back in early December, it was a case of “where to?” for the Wanderers, as they were thoroughly beaten in every area of the game by the Reds at Coopers Stadium. The 2-0 scoreline in that game could have been significantly worse for Tony Popovic’s side, as the Asian Champions left Adelaide with their tails between their legs.

This time around, though, Popovic would be in better spirits, having seen his side record four points from their last two games. Internationals Iacopo La Rocca and Romeo Castelen both returned from injury during the week — the former reintroduced straight into the starting side, with the latter having to be content with a place on the substitutes bench.

For Josep Gombau’s side, last week’s goal scorer Pablo Sanchez was relegated to the bench, with club stalwart Bruce Djite preferred at the point of attack. Gombau would’ve been hoping for a more clinical attitude from his side in the final third of the pitch, with Adelaide criticised continually this season for dropping points in games they’d clearly been the better team.

Western Sydney started well, with a series of corners in the opening three minutes forcing the Adelaide defence into some shaky clearances from the six yard box.

Despite that start, there were early headaches for Popovic, with Brendon Santalab going down with a shoulder injury in the 6th minute, following a challenge with Osama Malik in the Reds penalty area. Quizzically, the striker chose to play on with the injury despite the obvious discomfort. He eventually succumbed to the injury in the 34th minute.

Match Details Full match details »


Goal51′ B.DjiteYellow Card67′ T.ElrichYellow Card70′ I.SanchezGoal90′ S.Cirio

Malik, too, would have his injury worries in the first half, rolling his ankle as he slid in for a tackle toward the end of the first half. He also tried to play through the pain but was eventually substituted, with Craig Goodwin introduced in his place as the game ticked into first-half injury time.

The first chance of the game fell to Bruce Djite in the 11th minute, after Marcelo Carrusca cleverly back-heeled the ball into his path inside the penalty area. Fortunately for the Wanderers, Matt Spiranovic was on hand to clear the ball away in the nick of time.

The Wanderers would surprise the Reds in the 19th minute, though, when a mistimed shot on goal by Santalab trickled toward the back post. After Eugene Galekovic had punched the ball clear from a free kick, it was Labinot Haliti who tapped in Santalab’s effort at the back post to give the visitors the advantage. Reds players questioned whether the Albanian was in an offside position, but referee O’Leary and his assistant were unmoved.

Minutes later, and Nikita Rukavytsya could’ve made it 2-nil to Western Sydney. After controlling a long-ball expertly onto his right boot, the former Socceroo fired at goal only to be denied by a superb Galekovic save low and to his left.

As the half wound down, Sergio Cirio and the Reds looked the more likely to score.

The Spaniard was causing havoc down the left wing, with last-ditch defensive efforts the only reason Cirio didn’t find the back of the net.

In the 36th minute, Spiranovic pressured Cirio into firing over in a one-on-one situtation, before Covic blocked another Cirio effort in the shadows of half time.

It wouldn’t take long after the break before Adelaide were back on level terms, though. A wonderful through ball from Marcelo Carrusca allowed Djite to run onto the ball in acres of space and, on the edge of the penalty area, fire home under the advancing Covic.

The goal seemed to be the spark Adelaide needed, as they relentlessly pressed forward and heaped pressure on an increasingly fragile-looking Wanderers defence.

James Jeggo’s header from a Carrusca corner in the 53rd minute flew wide of the far post, before a flick-up free kick in the 55th minute from the ever-inventive Carrusca put Cirio through behind the Wanderers’ wall. Cirio’s shot across the face of goal was well saved to his left by Ante Covic, but the Western Sydney defence were certainly being put ‘on notice’ by a determined Reds outfit.

Cirio should’ve given Adelaide the lead in the 65th minute. A long release down the left flank from Galekovic found the pacy Mabil, who cut inside the penalty area before crossing to the spot. With the ball at shin height, Cirio fired his effort over from just outside the six-yard box.

Substitute Awer Mabil, who was introduced at half time for Miguel Palanca, fired narrowly wide of the far post in the 76th minute, after some deft touch and hold up play by Jeggo inside the box. Carrusca, too, should’ve done better with his next effort, as his cheeky chip was easily saved by Covic.

The game took on another dimension in the 83rd minute, when Western Sydney’s Matt Spiranovic received his second yellow card for an incident behind play on Isaias Sanchez.

It seemed like the game was going to be just a continuation of the overarching story of Adelaide’s season — plenty of endeavour, but not enough quality in the final pass or shot. Even against ten men, Adelaide still seemed unable to find a way through a resolute Wanderers defensive line.

Then, in injury time, Adelaide finally found a deserved winner.

Elrich’s angled through ball on the left found Goodwin running into the box, with options ahead of him. Goodwin steadied and picked out Cirio near the penalty spot, with the Spaniard side footing the ball home to earn a valuable win and send the home fans into raptures.


Ultimate A-League ‘Player of the Year’ Votes
3 Marcelo Carrusca (Adelaide United)
2 Tarek Elrich (Adelaide United)
1 Sergio Cirio (Adelaide United)
Youth Sam Gallaway (Western Sydney)

About the author

avatarJustin is a passionate football fan, and the Editor-in-chief of Ultimate A-League.

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  • britesparke

    Fully expected Adelaide to take this one-it was a battle and the Wanderers made a game of it to their credit but the losses are mounting up now for them. The wheels have well and truly fallen off the chariot!