Perth Glory are clinging to top spot on the A-League table after coming from behind to force Adelaide United to settle for a 1-1 draw at Coopers Stadium on Sunday.
Pablo Sanchez showed his class with a wonderful goal in the 11th minute as the Reds bossed the visitors early but the home side's inability to finish cleanly from several other opportunities proved costly.
Star midfielder Nebojsa Marinkovic uncorked an absolute screamer from 20 yards out to equalise as Glory had the better of the second half, denying United a victory that seemed theirs for the taking for the best part of an hour.
WHAT THEY SAID
"Yeah it’s disappointing. I think last week we dropped two points we should have got and today it was just a little bit of a defensive lapse and we copped another one. I thought tonight apart from the goal we did pretty well. We created enough to win the game in the end but that’s the way the game goes." – Reds midfielder Osama Malik
"It was a fairly good performance from us in the second half, the first half we weren’t good enough. It’s a step in the right direction, a draw, we’ve broken the hoodoo somewhat and we’ll move on to next week." – Glory keeper Danny Vukovic
1-0 (Sanchez 18')
Tarek Elrich split Perth's lacklustre defence with a beautiful feed from the left which found Sanchez in the box. The skilful Spanish forward calmly changed direction on the spot and with sublime control, delicately chipped the ball over out-of-position Danny Vukovic and into an empty goal.
1-1 Marinkovic (53')
After Andy Keogh played on quickly from a free kick, Marinkovic launched a rocket from the edge of the box which curled magnificently into the top corner. Eugene Galekovic had no chance of denying the Serbian marquee man Marinkovic, who is as deadly a long-range missile launcher as any seen in this country.
Notwithstanding Vukovic's brilliance in goal, the Reds were left to rue a swag of missed opportunities in a dominant but frustrating first half, none more anguishing than Cirio's 22nd-minute shocker.
A sitter of an open goal and a 2-0 lead beckoned but the Spaniard's toe poke from inside five yards was hashed miles high, allowing Glory room to breathe and mount a comeback.
OPTA DATA KEY STATS
Regardless of the location, ladder-leading Perth have found Adelaide a tough egg to crack this season, with a 0-3 win-loss heading into Sunday's encounter, including defeat in the FFA Cup final.
By eking out a draw, Glory are edging closer, yet remain winless in four head-to-head encounters against Josep Gombau's men in 2014-15.
Using the inside of his left foot, Marcelo Carrusca's one-touch strike from outside the box from out of nowhere almost gave the Reds the lead back in the 69th minute.
But his brilliance was to no avail, Vukovic launching skyward to spectacularly tap the dangerous ball over the cross bar. It was a fantastic passage of football from both charges.
THE FINAL WORD
Adelaide will seek to snap out of their recent patchy funk when they host the struggling Western Sydney Wanderers on Saturday night. On recent evidence, opportunities are likely to be aplenty for the hosts and, if so, nothing short of a landslide goal-feast will suffice.
Though gallant, top-of-the-table Glory appear to have misplaced their early-season momentum. They can regain it in a hurry with an impressive performance next Sunday when they head east to tackle Melbourne City at AAMI Park.
Adelaide United: Galekovic (c), Marrone, McGowan, Malik, Pablo Sanchez (Djite 71'), Isaias, Cirio, Carrusca (Goodwin 77'), Jeggo, Palanca (Mabil 61'), Elrich
Perth Glory: Vukovic, Griffiths, Zadkovich, Keogh, Marinkovic, Garcia (Harold 45'), Sidnei (Paljic 77'), Risdon, Jamieson, Thwaite (c), Kramar
Scorers: Pablo Sanchez (11'), Marinkovic (53')
Yellow cards: Zadkovic (33'), Marinkovic (34'), Thwaite (55'), Sidnei (72'), Djite (90'), Jamieson (90'+2)
Conditions: 23°C, overcast