Adelaide United are through to their first Hyundai A-League grand final in seven years after holding off Melbourne City 4-1 in a pulsating semi-final on Friday night.
In front of more than 15,000 fans at a heaving Coopers Stadium, Bruce Djite struck twice in the first 15 minutes of the second half to have the Reds cruising towards the decider.
But Nick Fitzgerald set up a nervy finish when he pulled one back with 18 minutes left before Dylan McGowan volleyed home the match-sealer and sub Pablo Sanchez added another late on to end a fantastic night for the club.
The Reds will now host the May 1 Grand Final at Adelaide Oval against the winner of Sunday’s second semi between Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar.
1-0 Djite (48’) – After a battle for possession, the ball fell perfectly into the path of Djite about 25 yards from goal. Without hesitation he hit a sweet shot which bent perfectly into the top right corner. A semi-final screamer!!
2-0 Djite (60’) – After Jack Clisby clumsily brought down Bruce Kamau in the box, Djite made no mistake from the spot, sending Sorensen the wrong way and slamming it into the bottom corner.
2-1 Fitzgerald (72’) – A clever short corner routine ended with Connor Chapman cutting the ball back to Fitzgerald who guided his low shot in off the far post.
3-1 McGowan (88’) – The defender timed his run perfectly to meet Marcelo Carrusca’s corner with a sweet volley which Sorensen couldn’t keep out of the net.
4-1 Sanchez (90+4’) – Djite’s pinpoint cross to the far post was perfectly weighted, with Sanchez arriving to smash it past Sorensen from a tight angle.
The Reds were almost undone in the first minute of the second half when keeper Eugene Galekovic over-committed to a ball over the top.
The ball rebounded to Bruno Fornaroli about 30 yards out and he nearly fired into an empty net if not for a crucial block from Iacopo La Rocca.
Two minutes later the Reds went down the other end and took the lead, one they wouldn’t relinquish.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
*After waiting until round 16 this season to score his first goal, Djite has now scored 11 in his last 13 appearances.
*City keeper Thomas Sorensen made five saves to take him over the 100 save mark for the season, the only gloveman to hit triple figures so far.
*This was Adelaide United’s 18th finals match in their Hyundai A-League history for just their fourth win.
*How good is finals football? A sell-out crowd in Adelaide made for a rocking Coopers Stadium and the players held up their end of the bargain, making for a humdinger of a Semi Final.
*City gloveman Thomas Sorensen showed he’s still got it at 39, pulling off a string of world-class saves to keep his side in the contest in the first half.
*Oh and Brucey’s first goal. WHAT. A. STRIKE!
Clisby should have known better than to dive in on Kamau as the young winger drove into the box. The City defender mistimed his challenge and referee Strebre Delovski had no choice but to award a penalty to give the home team a 2-0 lead.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD
For the second time in a row against Adelaide, City were unable to get star striker Bruno Fornaroli into the game as the Reds’ central defensive pairing of Dylan McGowan and Iacopo La Rocca kept him well in check.
As a result the visitors offered very little going forward, restricted to a few half chances on the break.
THE FINAL WORD
The Reds showed why they finished the campaign as Premiers with a classy and clinical display. They wore down City with their high intensity and slick passing, deservedly booking themselves a home Grand Final next weekend.
For City, a season that dished up so many highlights and smashed records ultimately ends one step short of the decider for a second straight year. Despite possessing arguably the two best players in the league (Mooy and Fornaroli), they simply weren’t consistent enough when it really mattered.
Adelaide United: Galekovic (gk) (c), Marrone, McGowan, La Rocca, Goodwin (Elrich 80’), Isaias, Mauk (Elsey 90’), Carrusca, Kamau (Sanchez 84’), Djite, Cirio
Melbourne City: Sorensen (gk), Retre (Chapman 62’), Wilkinson, Kisnorbo (c) (Melling 80’), Clisby, Malik, Caceres, Mooy, Fitzgerald, Garuccio (Marino 62’), Fornaroli
Scorers: Djite 48’, Djite 60’, Fitzgerald 72’, McGowan 88’ Sanchez 90+4’
Red cards: Nil
Yellow cards: Retre 12’, Goodwin 36’, La Rocca 57’, Garuccio 61’, Caceres 67’, Mauk 68’, Sanchez 90’
Conditions: 14C, Cloudy
Attendance: 15,489 @ Coopers Stadium