Muscat delivers another Victory at Hindmarsh
  Sat 7th Feb 2009
A-League 2008/2009 - Major Semi Finals - Leg 1 between Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory at Hindmarsh Stadium
Adelaide United 0 were defeated by Melbourne Victory 2
Source: FootballNews
Melbourne Victory captain Kevin Muscat has maintained his perfect record at Hindmarsh Stadium after leading his team to a convincing 2-0 win over Adelaide United in the Hyundai A-League Major Semi Final first leg. Melbourne has never lost a game at Hindmarsh Stadium when Muscat has been on the field and has now beaten Adelaide in all 4 A-League meetings this season.

Adelaide, on the other hand, is in danger of throwing away its historic season in only 4 weeks. The Asian Champions League finalists were sitting comfortably on top of the A-League table but threw away its advantage in the final weeks of the seasons and gifted the minor premiership and the automatic Asian Champions League spot to Melbourne Victory. Should Adelaide fail to turn around the two goal deficit in the second leg, it will likely face an in-form Queensland Roar for the right to meet Melbourne Victory in the Grand Final. Adelaide is seriously in danger of going out of the final series in straight sets and cementing its label as A-League Finals chokers.

In the post match washup, Adelaide United coach Aurelio Vidmar is under intense pressure from supporters for his unusual team selections. Fans are rightly asking why the out of form, short of match fitness and about to retire striker Agostino was selected in the starting line up ahead of the clubs leading goalscorer Cristiano. Another valid question is why club talisman Costanzo was not brought into the starting line-up ahead of the retiring Valkanis. Costanzo was not even selected in the squad. A common question on the Hindmarsh Terraces is where is creative midfielder Diego, Adelaide's best player during the Asian Champions League, and hardman Salley with both players seeming to have a fall-out with the coaching staff.

With much turmoil in the Adelaide United squad, Vidmar has put his faith in several players but, they in turn, have failed to return the favour. Travis Dodd, Lucas Pantelis and Fabian Barbiero have maintained their positions in the starting 11 over recent weeks despite indifferent form. Dodd has been nothing short of woeful in recent weeks and, on current form, should not be playing in the A-League despite his undoubted talent. Lucas Pantelis has recently returned from injury but appears to have lost his pace and has been invisible in his last few outings. Youngster Fabian Barbiero had a great start to the season but has faded badly in the last month. Barbiero may be jaded after a lot of games in his debut season. In the past month he has consistently been Adelaide's worst performer in midfield.

Adelaide, on song, are the best team in the A-League. But without the creative influences of Cassio, Diego, Costanzo and Cristiano, Adelaide lack the creativity and the cutting edge needed to open up their quality opponents. Unfortunately for Vidmar, its too late in the season to be making wholesale changes to his team and he has little option but to persist with what could be regarded as Adelaide's B team.

In contrast Melbourne Victory is hitting its top gear at the business end of the season. The Kevin Muscat led defence is rock solid while Melbourne's midfield engine room wiped the floor against Adelaide United. Up front Archie Thompson's inconsistent form is more than countered by Danny Allsop who is in possibly the sharpest form of his career. Further Ernie Merrick has, once again, demonstrated he is the most tactically astute coach in the A-League. He silenced Adelaide's flanking players and used Melbourne's superior passing game and pace to expose Adelaide's midfield, isolate its defence and create repeated dangerous one on one attacking situations.

Adelaide started the game with aggression but was quickly outwitted by Melbourne. It took only 13 minutes for Melbourne to open the scoring courtesy of a brilliant goal by Carlos Hernandez. The Costa Rican midfielder got on the end of a Tommy Pondeljak through ball to outpace isolated Adelaide defender Valkanis. With a lot to do, the classy midfielder unleashed a lightening bolt from 18m that cannoned in off the cross bar. To add salt to the already gaping wound, Danny Allsopp was on hand to comfortably head home the rebound to eliminate any potential doubt that Hernandez's shot may not have crossed the goal line. 1-0 to Melbourne Victory.

Adelaide needed an equaliser but it was Melbourne that was threatening to increase its score. Adelaide's goalkeeper Galekovic kept Adelaide in the match with two brilliant saves. Firstly Hernandez went close to scoring his second goal with a powerful low shot from close range. Galekovic pulled off a brilliant reflex save thrusting out his right hand and somehow keeping one handed possession of the ball as Allsopp was ready to pounce on the rebound. It was a save of the highest standards and demonstrated why Galekovic is the leading goalkeeper in the A-League. Next it was Archie Thompson's turn to threaten the Adelaide goal. As Thompson streaked away from his defender he hit a low drive and was certain he had scored. But Galekovic got his fingertips to the ball and parried it onto his goalpost to deny Thompson.

For the remainder of the half Adelaide continued to have the majority of possession but it was Melbourne that looked far more dangerous. Adelaide had the quantity whilst Melbourne had the quality.

Midfielder Kristian Sarkies was having one of his better performances in a red shirt but his match was ended prematurely when he pulled up sore after an aggressive tackle and had to leave the field with an ankle injury. Identity crisis victim Alemao, signed as a full back and now an attacking midfielder, replaced Sarkies. Alemao may have strong attacking instincts but he has the skill set of a defender and not a midfielder.

Vidmar reshuffled his side in the second half to add more bite to his midfield. Valkanis came off and was replaced by Daniel Mullen and Jamieson encouraged to push forward down the flank. But more numbers in midfield was not the answer for Adelaide as Melbourne continued to dominate the centre of the field. It was quality in the midfield that Adelaide was lacking, not quantity of players. At this time Vidmar may have been wishing he had Jonas Salley on the bench.

As the second half minutes ticked away, Melbourne began to temper its attacking aggression and focus on defending its one goal lead. Adelaide's Dodd should have levelled the scores when a Jamieson cross found the makeshift striker only two metres out from goal. But Dodd's air shot was symbolic of his overall performance in the game.

Finally Danny Allsopp sealed the game and probably the tie when he grabbed Melbourne's second goal. The in-form striker out-smarted and out-bodied defender Ognenovski, once again isolated, and clinically slotted the ball in the far left corner of Galekovic's goal.

Best for Adelaide was goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic who brilliant saves have given Adelaide some hope in the second leg, and tireless full back Scott Jamieson. Full back Michael Marrone was respectable given it was only his second A-League start. Sasa Ognenovksi and Paul Reid were below their normal standards but were the pick of the rest.

For Melbourne, not matter how much opposition fans may loath him, it is impossible to ignore the performance of captain Kevin Muscat. He leads by example and, in this game, led his team with aplomb. Fellow defenders Ryall, Vargas and Kemp were all strong performers. In fact, as you move through the Melbourne side, it is difficult to find any player that was not a strong performer.

Adelaide head to Melbourne for the second leg at Telstra Dome, two goals down and 4 head to head losses down to face their nemesis in front of 30,000 plus hostile fans. Adelaide needs a miracle to turn this tie around and what little chance it does have may be eliminated before a ball is kicked unless Vidmar is able to address his non-performing favourites.

Adelaide United 0 were defeated by Melbourne Victory 2
Match Statistics:
Crowd: 14119

Adelaide United FC :
Player listing:
20.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk), 5.Michael VALKANIS (16.Daniel MULLEN 45’), 7.Lucas PANTELIS, 8.Kristian SARKIES (3.ALEMAO 41’), 9.Paul AGOSTINO (10.CRISTIANO 72’), 13.Travis DODD (Captain), 14.Scott JAMIESON, 18.Fabian BARBIERO, 19.Sasa OGNENOVSKI, 24.Paul REID, 27.Michael MARRONE

Substitutes not used: 30.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 28.Rostyn GRIFFITHS

Coach: Aurelio Vidmar

Yellow Cards: Sasha Ognenovski 5', Scott Jamieson 34'
Red Cards: Nil

Melbourne Victory FC :
Player listing:
1.Michael THEOKLITOS (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT (Captain), 5.Sebastian RYALL, 7.Matthew KEMP (19.Evan BERGER 65’), 9.Danny ALLSOPP, 10.Archie THOMPSON, 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 14.Billy CELESKI, 15.Tom PONDELJAK, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ (17.Jose Luis LOPEZ 76’), 22.Nick WARD (8.Grant BREBNER 56’)

Substitutes not used: 20.Mitchell LANGERAK (rgk), 11.NEY FABIANO

Coach: Ernie Merrick

Yellow Cards: Nick Ward 51', Kevin Muscat 54'
Red Cards: Nil

Referee: Srebre Delovski , 7 / 10
Pitch: 10 / 10
Game: 8 / 10

Best Players:
3. Muscat (Melbourne)
2. Hernandez (Melbourne)
1. Galekovic (Adelaide)
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