Gallant Reds fall to defending champions in season opener

In an action-packed contest 10-man Adelaide United has suffered a 3-2 loss to Sydney FC in the opening round of the Hyundai A-League 2019/20 season at Coopers Stadium on Friday night.

It was a valiant effort from the Reds who played the final 33 minutes down a man after Ryan Strain’s controversial dismissal.

Nikola Mileusnić sent a dipping free-kick past a diving Thomas Heward-Belle on 44 minutes to halve the deficit following Adam Le Fondre’s quick-fire double.

Al Hassan Toure, who scored on his FFA Cup debut, found the net in his first league appearance to level the match with a classy finish, but Ryan McGowan had the final say via a header from a corner on 87 minutes.

Gertjan Verbeek made two changes to the starting line-up from the Reds’ FFA Cup Semi-final win over Central Coast Mariners. Paul Izzo returned for Isaac Richards, while Nikola Mileusnić replaced Kristian Opseth, shifting Al Hassan Toure into the striker role.

Adelaide began with more intensity and purpose going forward while Sydney were content with absorbing possession.

The Reds were seemingly in control before the VAR intervened on 21 minutes after spotting a handball on Michael Jakobsen off a volley across the face of goal.

Upon further review the referee, Alex King awarded a penalty which seemed extremely harsh given the close proximity and little to no time to react.

Le Fondre duly stepped up and expertly slotted the spot-kick.

Adelaide showed good intent immediately after conceding but before they could get an equaliser they found themselves further behind.

Milos Ninkovic profited from a poor clearance before spreading a pass to Alexander Baumjohann, who fed Le Fondre for an easy tap in.

Not disheartened, Adelaide lifted and continued to show promise in advanced areas – reflective of Verbeek’s attacking philosophy he has imparted on his players during the off-season.

Mileusnić saw a chance well saved before pulling a goal back from a dead ball in timely fashion – on the stroke of half-time.

Toure restored parity on 51 minutes after VAR changed the initial offside call with Adelaide having the ascendency, but six minutes later Strain received his marching orders.

On the hour mark Sydney thought they had retaken the lead when Kosta Barbarouses scored but it was overturned by the VAR due to being marginally offside.

Riley McGree and George Blackwood illustrated great dynamism in midfield throughout the game.

However, it was the Sky Blues who struck the killer blow in the 87th minute when McGowan rose highest to head in the corner.

Key moments:

22’ | GOAL: Le Fondre makes no mistake from the penalty spot to rifle his finish into the roof of the net.

23’ | CHANCE! Halloran almost draws the Reds level but smacks the woodwork on the tightest of angles from a yard out.

28’ | GOAL: Le Fondre makes Adelaide pay with a simple open-goal finish from Baumjohann’s assist after some sloppy play defensively from the hosts in the lead up.

44’ | GOAL! Mileusnić dispatches a stunning, dipping free-kick from 22 yards which beats Heward-Belle all ends up and gets the Reds back into the game.

Nikola Mileusnić halves the deficit with a sumptuous free-kick.

51’ | GOAL! Toure times his run to perfection, breaking the offside trap as he latches on to a wonderful Halloran pass and steers his strike into the bottom corner.

Al Hassan Toure equalises in clinical fashion to score on his league debut.

60’ | RED CARD: Strain is sent off despite minimal contact on Le Fondre who was through on goal.

87’ | GOAL: McGowan is left unmarked in the box and heads in the corner to garner all three points for the visitors.

Match details:

Friday, 11 October 2019
Hyundai A-League 2019/20 Season – Round 1
Adelaide United 2 (Mileusnić 44’ Toure 51’)
Sydney FC 3 (Le Fondre 22’ 28’ R. McGowan 87’)
Venue: Coopers Stadium
Attendance: 9,903