Late Gauci heroics help Reds cling onto 1-0 win over Sky Blues
Adelaide United outlasted a fast-finishing Sydney FC to win 1-0 at Coopers Stadium on Sunday night - the club's sixth win on the bounce.
Craig Goodwin put the Reds in front on the night from the penalty spot but it was 20-year-old goalkeeper Joe Gauci who tied up the three points with a reflex save to deny Patrick Wood late in the second half.
Gauci's maiden A-League clean sheet helped the Reds clinch a sixth-straight win - a feat the club haven't achieved since the very first A-League season in 2005/06.
Kosta Barbarouses and Goodwin were the busiest of the forwards on either side throughout the first half. The Sky Blues created chances to score but lacked the clinical edge needed to get past an Adelaide outfit on a red-hot run of form.
Kusini Yengi won the hosts their second-half spot kick after Luke Brattan caught the Adelaide forward's leg attempting to clear the ball inside Sydney's defensive box. Goodwin calmly converted the penalty to give the Reds a 1-0 lead held until full-time.
The Sky Blues pushed until the final whistle to find an equaliser, but Gauci's efforts at the death trumped Sydney's intention to equalise as the Reds moved into second place on the A-League table, one point off Central Coast Mariners.
Barbarouses gave Gauci an early test with a left-footed strike from the right side of the box, but the Reds stopper gathered with ease, as the visitors gunned to take an unlikely lead at Coopers Stadium.
Harry Van der Saag came into the Sky Blues' lineup in place of the suspended Rhyan Grant and did well to get a crucial header on a ball floated to the back post to deny Goodwin a chance on goal.
Goodwin pressed on in search of an opener, and flashed a cross from Ben Halloran wide of the mark, perhaps surprised to find himself space amongst bodies to register a shot on goal.
The chances continued to present to Barbarouses throughout the first half. The New Zealand international went close to connecting with a ball from Miloš Ninković into the six-yard box, before getting on the end of a counter attack and running free toward goal, only for Halloran to track back, cover his defence and close down the space.
Barbarouses then stung the gloves of Gauci with a strong hit from the right-hand side of the box, without managing to beat the Reds custodian. It was the first of two chances created by the Sky Blues in first-half stoppage time, after Ninković let Barbarouses' dangerous ball from the right flank run to Bobô, who shot into Ryan Strain defending valiantly in front of goal.
An hour ticked by without either side giving an inch, in a contest defined by astute defensive displays by both teams. But in the last 30 minutes the game opened up with chances flying in down either end of the pitch.
Stefan Mauk headed just wide from a corner routine after Jordan Elsey diverted the ball his way with a header of his own at the front post.
Halloran and Goodwin proceeded to link up once more when Halloran flashed a low, driven cross off the right flank toward the danger zone.
Van der Saag was caught napping in the box as Goodwin zipped past him to divert a shot on goal. But with the goal at his mercy, Goodwin failed to slide the ball past Redmayne, who sprawled ahead of the Adelaide forward to block the ball out for a corner.
Sydney's defensive line continued to repel Adelaide's repeat attacking attempts, before Brattan's challenge on Yengi in the box produced a penalty call in favour of the hosts.
Goodwin stepped up to the spot to score the decisive goal, sending Redmayne the wrong way and slotting calmly into the right-hand corner.
The Reds were intent on holding their slender advantage to the final whistle, which allowed goalkeeper Gauci to emerge as a hero with a pair of monumental saves deep in the second half to deny the Sky Blues an equaliser.
The first came from Patrick Wood's header from inside the box, directed on goal after a whipped ball in by Barbarouses. Gauci was back-pedalling, but got a hand up to meet the ball in a split second to tip it out for a corner.
Gauci got back to work from the resulting corner, hurling himself into a pack to deny the visitors once again, and secure a hard-earned clean sheet - his first in the A-League.
Central Coast Mariners v Adelaide United
Thursday, April 1 2021
Kick-off: 7.40pm AEDT
Melbourne Victory v Sydney FC
Sunday, April 4 2021
Kick-off: 7.05pm AET
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