Reds' former Brazilian star recalls 'freakish' Grand Final

Brazilian midfielder Diego, who was part of Adelaide United's 2007 Grand Final starting XI, reckons on another day the Big V could have seen their skipper sent off early on that day nine years ago.

"It was a bit of a freakish game, I think," Diego told Goal Australia of the now infamous 6-0 loss at Etihad Stadium. 

"If we would have played them again, it's very unlikely to happen what happened that day.

"They rested for two weeks. We went all the way to PKs in the [preliminary] final.

"You know, guys were bruised and definitely not as rested as Melbourne. 

"Kevin Muscat got me early, hit my knees pretty early, I was pretty much wobbling for the rest of the game and then obviously with the red card for Ross [Aloisi] - the game was already 2-0 but we just didn't have a very good game at all."

Diego, who is now an assistant coach at Grand Canyon University in Arizona, rates his three seasons in Adelaide as "the best part" of his career.

The 36-year-old will be cheering on the Reds from his home in the United States on Sunday.

"I think it would mean the world to the supporters," he said.

"I would love it if they won. I think it's about time.

"We've [Adelaide United] been a powerhouse in Australia for the past 10 years. It's about time that we win one, so I would be extremely delighted if they did it."


But United will have to swim against the tide of history if they are to win Sunday's Hyundai A-League grand final, with no club from South Australia having won a national league title in 22 years.

Since Adelaide City triumphed 1-0 over Melbourne Knights in the 1994 National Soccer League (NSL) grand final, three season deciders have come and gone where South Australian clubs have lost.

In 1995, the Knights gained revenge with a 2-0 win over Adelaide City, while in 2007 and 2009, Adelaide United lost A-League grand finals to Melbourne Victory.

While the Reds claimed the inaugural Westfield FFA Cup at home in December 2014, there is also the 2008 AFC Champions League final that went against them.

Adelaide's grand final hoodoo will be the elephant in the room come 3.30pm local time at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday.

"It would mean a hell of a lot to the club [to win]. There's no question about that," former Reds winger Lucas Pantelis told Goal Australia .

"Yes they have won the inaugural FFA Cup but this is the championship. This is what you do a whole pre-season for - it's to win the league.

Lucas Pantelis

"So we've obviously had two failed attempts - both against Melbourne Victory - so hopefully it could be third-time lucky.

"I'm pretty confident that the boys will get the job done. They are playing the best football in the last couple of months."

Pantelis was part of Adelaide's second A-League grand final when striker Cristiano was sent off after just nine minutes in Melbourne and Tom Pondeljak's 60th-minute strike saw Victory triumph.

"When Cristiano got sent off… that just kind of put a dampener on the whole game, really," Pantelis said.

"We tried as much as we could to hold out with 10 men but against Melbourne Victory - who finished top that year - we came unstuck with a 1-0 loss."

Two years earlier and Archie Thompson produced the best individual performance ever in an A-League grand final, scoring five goals in a 6-0 thumping of Adelaide where the visitors again copped an early red card.

Captain Ross Aloisi received two yellow cards in the space of 34 minutes and Adelaide never recovered.

The man who last brought a championship trophy back to South Australia - Damian Mori - will be in the stands at the Adelaide Oval when the Reds face Western Sydney Wanderers.

Damian Mori

On May 1, 1994, Mori struck the only goal of the game in Adelaide City's win over Knights at Olympic Park in Melbourne, thumping a long-range strike into the net in the 68th minute.

Mori knows how tough it can be to win a grand final - he had lost the previous two NSL deciders in the colours of Adelaide City and Knights, respectively.

But in a good omen for Guillermo Amor's Reds, Adelaide City were crowned champions 22 years ago thanks to a late-season revival, coming from fifth in the table to win the grand final.

"We had a good squad then. We had a lot of big-game players, we had a lot of internationals and I think we probably struggled throughout the season because of international duty and then it seemed to all come together towards the finals," explained Mori, who is now Adelaide City's coach in the PS4 NPL South Australia.

This season, Amor's side failed to win their opening eight matches.

But a run of 20 games with just one defeat has led them to the premiership and the grand final.

Pantelis hopes Adelaide have one more victory left in them.

"Not only for the club but for the fans as well - the fans have been fantastic and they've been through a lot over the journey, with the club obviously being in the old national league as well," he said.

"To finally win [the championship] would be absolutely amazing."

Adelaide United will face Western Sydney Wanderers in the 2016 Hyundai A-League Grand Final on Sunday, 1 May at Adelaide Oval. Kick-off is at 3.30pm ACST.