Apostolos Stamatelopoulos’ winner overawed Croydon Kings, as Adelaide United prevailed 2-1 in Round 20 of the PlayStation 4 National Premier League at The Parks Football Centre on Saturday.
With two games of the season remaining, the Young Reds win against Croydon was imperative to maintain their place in the competition, and it was achieved with their best performance to date.
Pacifique Niyongabire had broken the deadlock late into the first half, to give the home side the lead.
And although conceding Shaun Mcgreevy’s equaliser, United remained focussed and held firm to secure all three points.
After dominating much of the match, Adelaide persevered and in the 69th minute, were rewarded through Stamatelopoulos.
Daniel Margush was named in Huss Skenderovic’s starting XI, stepping in for Isaac Richards.
His Hyundai A-League and Asian Champions League experience shone brightly as he marshalled the squad with instructions and praise.
Adelaide’s first real chance came from Kristin Konstandopoulos, as he eased past defenders, but his final shot floated over the crossbar.
Kings’ Rocky Visconte had tried his luck from distance, but was just off the mark.
The scoreline remained square until 37 minutes in, when Niyongabire intensified the game, accelerating towards goal and put away a tidy finish past Nick Munro.
The lead was short-lived as Kings’ Mcgreevy headed in for the equaliser from a corner kick.
United’s Captain, Josh Mori quickly tried to answer back, as his launcher lashed the bar.
In a nail-biting moment for the hosts, Visconte fired a threatening free-kick in the penalty area, but Paul Wilson, who scored against White City for the Hyundai A-League side in a mid-week friendly, managed to clear.
To regain the lead, Stamatelopoulos remained calm and composed to blaze the ball into the back of the net, in wet and windy conditions.
Croydon continued to search for the second equaliser, but Margush kept solid, as well as saving clearances made by the United defence.
Following the match, Skenderovic was ecstatic with the display, and also importantly, to remain focussed for the full 90 minutes.
“It was one of the best performances of the season, collectively,” Skenderovic said.
“I think we executed both the grit and the concentration for long periods of the game that we have always been asking for in these big match-ups.
“It was a fantastic performance, and to win the way that we did, and cover key areas was a win-win.
“To not concede in those last 10-15 minutes, was something we have been working on and have improved on.
“Prior if it had been 6-8 weeks ago, we probably would have struggled, but it shows how far we have come and we looked more composed and we didn’t panic as much.
“Having Daniel Margush in goals was also great, and he is a great leader.
“We coped with the pressure and towards the end, we held the ball up in key areas and ran the clock down.
“I’m very happy with the overall performance, and to have Adelaide United Chairman, Greg Griffin come in to the change rooms after the match pleased and proud of what we have done, is a credit to him and the support has been fantastic.”
Next week, Adelaide United travel to Jack Smith Park to face West Torrens Birkalla.
Adelaide United 2
Croydon Kings 2