Melbourne Victory coach Kevin Muscat took a swipe at Adelaide United’s physical treatment of gun midfielder Fahid Ben Khalfallah in Saturday's pulsating 2-2 draw at Coopers Stadium.
Khalfallah, who produced one of the finest performances of the season in the previous week’s triumph over the Western Sydney Wanderers, left the Reds reeling in the ninth minute with a cracking goal from the edge of the area.
At various times thereafter, the French-born Tunisian star looked like cracking the game open but was often subdued by the Reds’ dominant midfield, inhospitably in Muscat’s opinion, robbing the fans of an even better spectacle.
“I think we would have seen a lot more from him if he wasn’t fouled every time he got the ball,” Muscat said.
“Most of the people in the stadium would have like to have seen that.
“Four out of five times he gets the ball, he's fouled.
“That's obviously not going to improve the standard of the competition.
“I thought it was pretty ordinary the fact he wasnt allowed to get into the game as much as everyone in the stadium would have liked, because he's a good footballer.”
After Khalfallah’s early strike, Adelaide scored twice, firstly to level just before half-time and then assume the lead in the 74th minute, albeit briefly as Archie Thompson scored a ripper three minutes later to ensure a split of the points.
While acknowledging United had the better of overall play, Muscat was disappointed with the nature of the first goal conceded, to Pablo Sanchez on the back of some lackadaisical Victory defending of a throw-in.
“The first one (conceded goal) was a very soft goal,” said Muscat, who maintained his undefeated coaching record against arch rival Adelaide.
“We talk about wanting to play possession-based football and sexy football … we’ve conceded off a throw-in.
“You can wrap it up how you want. The boys are disappointed.
“That shouldn’t occur, not at this level.
“It was a tough night for us. Adelaide played very well in what was a big game for them at home.”
Virtually every statistic was heavily slanted in the Reds’ favour, except the one that mattered on the scoresheet, thanks laregely to veteran Thompson’s superb game-tying 77th-minute goal.
It’s not the first time Thompson has broken Adelaide hearts during his illustrious career.
“I thought we scored two outstanding goals, especially the last one (Thompson), which was the goal of the night by a stretch,” Muscat said.
“Archie's first touch and his second touch to go around Eugene (Galekovic) was outstanding.”