A tense draw with the Western Sydney Wanderers on Thursday evening has made Adelaide United’s A-League finals dreams come true.
Adelaide United needed one miserly point against a side which had little to play for other than a potential FFA Cup play off.
Adelaide had to come from behind to earn a 2-2 draw with Western Sydney despite having a numerical advantage for 54 minutes at Coopers Stadium on Thursday night.
The Wanderers were reduced to 10 men before Adealaide United’s Craig Goodwin scored the decisive equalising goal to end their league season sitting in sixth spot.
The goal ensured Adelaide was locked into the top six which is now a closed shop.
However, it can climb the ladder without kicking a ball if Macarthur or Central Coast lose by enough goals to peg back United’s -2 deficit.
Adelaide got off to a perfect start.
Ryan Strain played a major part in two goals – one for each side.
Strain managed to chip the ball over former Reds goalkeeper Daniel Margush which ended in the back of the net.
He wasn’t credited with his first career A-League goal when Ziggy Gordon crashed the chip into his own net in the 11th minute.
Strain was involved in the Wanderers’ equaliser 10 minutes later when another former Red, Bruce Kamau, crashed his shot towards the defender which ricocheted into the back of the net as an own goal.
Graham Dorrans stunned the home side with a cracking second goal for the Wanderers on the half-hour as Adelaide’s game plan crumbled to Western Sydney’s counterattacking game.
Adelaide played a dangerous game at the start of the second half as it pressed for the equaliser when Thomas Aqualina smashed a 20m canon against the upright in the 50th minute.
Seconds later, Margush made a world-class save from a Goodwin rocket which he palmed over the bar as he was diving backwards.
Jordon Mutch had a chance to sink the Reds in the dying stages of the clash when James Delianov gifted him a pass to score but the keeper recovered with a desperate save.
Red card lesson
Referee Alex King’s decision to expel Tass Mourdoukoutas for a studs up tackle on Adelaide’s Louis D’Arrigo in the 36th minute was a fine example of a match official in control.
Arguably the finest young referee in the country, King didn’t need VAR to back his judgement.
His correct call at that stage of the clash should be used as a benchmark example for all of Australia’s football competitions.
Wanderers FFA Cup in danger
The fate of the away side’s season was sealed on Wednesday night when Brisbane Roar slammed the door shut on any chance Wanderers had of making the top six.
One of the nation’s most cashed-up clubs failed for a third successive season to reach the finals series.
It is now resigned to the possibility of facing the indignity of an FFA Cup playoff and missing a chance to earn a spot in the AFC Champions League.
The cup winner in 2022 earns the playoff for international club football.
The new cup system means any A-League club finishing ninth to 12th must play off with only two clubs qualifying for the FFA Cup’s round of 32.
Although Wanderers are currently eighth, Perth Glory has a chance to shift them closer to the bottom when they faces Newcastle Jets away on Saturday.
Adelaide United 2 (OG 11m, Craig Goodwin 56m) Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (OG 21m, Graham Dorrans 30m) at Coopers Stadium – Referee: Alex King
Adelaide United scrape into A-League finals