With Adelaide United Youth’s finals hopes fading fast, defender Jared Clark came to the rescue to score a dramatic last-gasp equaliser and earn a 2-2 draw against Adelaide Blue Eagles on Saturday.
The Young Reds, also down to 10 men, were moments away from seeing their finals dream dashed at Marden Sports Complex.
But Clark’s 93rd minute finish after pouncing on a failed corner clearance means they can still secure a top-six berth, provided results fall their way in the final round next weekend.
The hosts struck first just past the 30-minute mark when Christian D’Angelo headed in a recycled cross at the back post, before Ninko Beric drew the Reds level at 1-1.
Daniel Cockerline thought he scored the winner three minutes from time before the late drama ensued.
Paul Pezos made three changes to the side that comfortably beat Adelaide Olympic 2-0 last week with Isaac Richards returning in goal for the first time since Round 10. Meanwhile, Daniel Bressan and Domenic Costanzo replaced Taras Gomulka and Pacifique Niyongabire.
It was a relatively cagey start to the match with both sides making a cautious approach, not willing to push too many players forward.
Beric had a sight at goal on 13 minutes when his near-post effort was tipped wide.
However, Blue Eagles struck through a D’Angelo header as he rose highest in the box.
Wet and windy conditions welcomed the second-half, as United Youth looked to attack with more purpose.
Carlo Armiento and Beric were more involved in the action and both had a chance each before playing instrumental roles in restoring parity.
However, that was not before Ryan Yates was brandished a second yellow card for a mistimed tackle.
On 71 minutes, Armiento rattled the crossbar with a thumping free-kick, before his low cross would provide the assist for Beric’s instinctive finish.
The Marden-based club then re-took the lead, though Clark’s late heroics ensured the Young Reds lived to fight another day.
For Adelaide to qualify for the finals they must beat South Adelaide and hope MetroStars and Blue Eagles both lose to West Adelaide and Raiders respectively.
Adelaide United Youth Reserves
Adelaide United Youth Reserves marched to a convincing 5-0 win over Adelaide Blue Eagles Reserves to maintain their spot in the top six.
Adelaide United Youth host South Adelaide in Round 22 of the National Premier League 2019 season on Saturday, 17 August at VALO Football Centre – The Parks. Kick-off is at 7.00 PM. Reserves kick-off at 4.45pm.