Fighting Reds show spirit

Adelaide United coach John Kosmina was impressed with the fight his makeshift side displayed against Melbourne Heart in the 1-1 draw at Hindmarsh Stadium on Friday night.

Adelaide United coach John Kosmina was impressed with the fight his makeshift side displayed against Melbourne Heart in the 1-1 draw at Hindmarsh Stadium on Friday night.

With Adelaide having little to play for besides avoiding the wooden spoon and full attention now turning to the AFC Champions League, Kosmina opted to rest several of his key stars.

The likes of captain Eugene Galekovic, defender Nigel Boogaard, midfielder Iain Ramsay and striker Bruce Djite all sat out.

Their omissions paved the way for reserve gloveman and soon-to-be Newcastle Jet Mark Birighitti to make only his ninth Hyundai A-League appearance for the Reds, and talented youth-team products Jacob Melling and Evan Kostopoulos to start for the first time this season.

Eighteen-year-old midfielder Liam Wooding also made his senior Reds debut when he came on at halftime for marquee signing Dario Vidosic.

Despite an unwillingness to pressure and press Melbourne, Adelaide shot to an unlikely lead on 37 minutes courtesy of a Sergio van Dijk penalty.

The Dutchman scored his first goal for the Reds since January 25 when he drilled home the spot kick after defender Daniel Mullen had been fouled in the area by Heart's Simon Colosimo.

Although Melbourne equalised in the 68th minute through an impressive individual effort from towering striker Eli Babalj, Adelaide were impenetrable in the closing stages, thwarting the Heart's attacking onslaught.

The hard fought point sealed ninth spot for the hosts, leaving Gold Coast to cap off their dismal season with the wooden spoon.

Kosmina admitted that circumstances dictated his team selection but was more than impressed with his team's effort, particularly from the Reds' youngsters.

"We threw a fair few new bodies in there and two kids (Melling and Kostopoulos) got their starting debut, while another (Wooding) played their first game ever, so a lot was achieved tonight," Kosmina said.

"We had to look at what we could get out of the kids for the future.

"Evan Kostopoulos played 90 minutes and still had plenty of run in his legs and he'll get better with more experience.

"It was Liam Wooding's first time ever on the bench let alone the field so from that perspective he was good and Jacob Melling has had his chances off the bench but it was his first start and I thought he did really too.

"I was happy with how we went about our business, we went out there to practice what we want to do in Asia and what we've being doing the last few weeks."

Although the Hyundai A-League season has come to a close for Adelaide as they prepare to further themselves in the ACL, Kosmina admitted he was bitter to have missed the finals.

"As much as the full focus is Asia, it still wrangles a little bit that we haven't got a game in the finals next weekend," Kosmina said.

The former Sydney FC coach also rejected claims his side may lack match sharpness without the Hyundai A-League, believing the Reds had generated enough momentum from their opening two wins of the ACL group stage.

"I think we've probably built up a little bit of momentum and the next game (against Pohang Steelers) given what we've achieved in the two previous, is obviously the most important," Kosmina said.

"I think we proved on Tuesday night (2-0 win over Gamba) that we are pretty comfortable at home if we stay disciplined and structured, and that it's going to be hard for teams to come to Hindmarsh."

Speaking after his final Hyundai A-League appearance and probable last game in goals for the Reds, Birighitti, who was handed the captain's armband in his farewell match by stand-in skipper Cassio upon his substitution, had mixed emotions.

"I'm obviously feeling a bit upset playing my last game for the club ... it's always good to get a run in front of a fantastic crowd like Hindmarsh with great supporters," Birighitti said.

"The club these past four years have been phenomenal the way they've treated me and the way they've gone about things.

"I'm really looking forward to the challenge ahead of me with Newcastle, but I will definitely miss this place."