Defending champions Adelaide United kept its hopes of retaining the FFA Cup for a successive year alive, after trumping Sydney FC 2-1 after extra-time at Coopers Stadium on Wednesday night.
A Rhyan Grant stunner opened the scoring from distance for the visitors, catching Adelaide goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic off his line. Pablo Sanchez then ensured both sides were heading into the break all square, courtesy of Sergio Cirio’s individual brilliance, before Dylan McGowan sealed the win in extra-time to maintain Adelaide’s 100% record in the competition.
The Sky Blues dominated the early exchanges and were rewarded for their efforts. However, Adelaide began to exert its dominance in the latter stages of the first-half and after missing a plethora of chances restored parity through Sanchez.
Despite getting back into the match, it was almost all Sydney FC after the interval, but it failed to capitalise on its second-half dominance as United appeared sluggish and lacking intensity. Although, the hosts gradually found their feet against a rather youthful side fielded by coach Graham Arnold and eventually Harbour City side were sent packing.
A tale of two Cirio’s
Phenomenal, yet at times AWOL. That is the best way to describe Sergio Cirio’s game. The Spanish winger was virtually unstoppable in the first-half, illustrating exceptional dribbling ability and poise on the ball. The 30-year-old orchestrated Sanchez’s goal, after a brilliant run which saw him skip past the Sky Blues defence, before squaring the ball into the path of Sanchez. However, the second-half and for most of extra-time the diminutive forward was essentially non-existent, as he was aptly marked out of the game by the Sky Blues outfit. Incidentally, it was the Cup specialist’s first game of the tournament where he did not find the back-of-the-net, in what was a performance of stark contrast.
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Sydney’s youngsters on display Boss, Graham Arnold is synonymous with giving youth players a chance and tonight was no exception. Indeed, the starting XI contained a number of inexperienced talented footballers such as Riley Woodcock, Andrew Hoole, Aaron Calver, Brandon O’Neil and Chris Naumoff. And while Arnold’s men were eliminated from the competition it is these type of matches which will benefit the development of the younger players in the long-term and for the impending A-League season. The aforementioned put in an excellent shift against a full-strength United team and there are certainly promising signs ahead for the Sydney-siders. The next few years look bright with the talent pool seemingly expanding each year for the former Central Coast Mariners manager.
McGowan at the centre of attention
The 24-year-old became the centre of attention in the final 10 minutes of the encounter, initially for all the right reasons. McGowan broke the deadlock with seven minutes remaining, pouncing on the loose ball, after an audacious rabona cross from Marcelo Carrusca was not dealt with by gloveman Vedran Janjetovic. Moments later though, McGowan could have potentially gone from hero to villain following a last man challenge on Sebastian Ryall. The defender was correctly given his marching orders for the professional foul, but the ensuing Hoole-free kick was sent sailing over the bar. Irrespective of his dismissal, McGowan is still the favourite to partner Osama Malik in the centre of the defence for Guillermo Amor this campaign despite the arrival of Iacopo La Rocca from the Western Sydney Wanderers.