Unlike the Reds’ previous ten outings against the Victory, this time the headlines were for all of the right reasons as they produced arguably their best performance of the season to keep them well in contention to secure a spot in the top two.
Marcos Flores gave the Reds a 1-0 half time lead, prolific striker Sergio van Dijk then scoring the first of his two goals with a stunning free kick in the 57th minute to double the Reds’ advantage and give United’s travelling fans a feeling that this could be their day.
If there were any doubts that the Reds could go on with it, they were diminished with 25 minutes to go when Melbourne captain Kevin Muscat received his marching orders for a second bookable offence, the Reds going on to find the back of the net twice more, substitute Fabian Barbiero chiming in before van Dijk’s second completed the rout.
The 4-1 result equals the Reds’ biggest win against the Victory, that occasion ironically the last time United tasted success againstMelbourne.
“We played well against Sydney, we played well against Brisbane, and this was a real important game for two reasons, to try and stay in position number two and also because it was a special game against them (Melbourne), so everybody was focused and not only the result, but the way we did it, was fantastic,” delighted Head Coach Rini Coolen said.
“I was not surprised how we played because I know we can play football like that, but scoring that many goals, and we could have scored more, I was really happy with the way we played because we created a lot of chances and were very organised.”
“I wasn’t happy with the goal they scored, I think it was better to keep a clean sheet and it was possible to keep the ball at the end of the game, but four goals in an away game against a team like that with so much pressure in that game, it’s a great result.”
The Reds portrayed a team on a mission from the outset as they dominated the opening 45 minutes. Purposeful, positive, committed, high intensity football saw them make constant inroads into the Victory half and their ascendancy was rewarded in the 12th minute with a brilliantly constructed goal.
A fleet footed Iain Ramsay, who played arguably his best game for the club, produced a sublime touch to give himself room out on the left, the winger teasing Muscat before sending a deep cross to the far post. Travis Dodd rose intently to nod the ball back to Flores, who made no mistake beating Victory keeper Michael Petkovic.
Every player in a red shirt was up for the contest, Adam Hughes, Cameron Watson and Uruguayan Francisco Usucar, who was making his Reds debut, all pulling the trigger without luck as the Victory goal emulated a shooting gallery.
Ramsay’s pace was causing the Victory all kinds of headaches, Grant Brebner fortunate not to be pulled up for a handball on the edge of the penalty area as he struggled to keep in front of the speedster as he chased down a long ball.
Mark Birighitti was not showing any signs of nerves from the derby-like atmosphere, the young Reds keeper reeling off a fine reflex save late in the half to deny a stinging Carlos Hernandez effort in Melbourne’s best chance of the half.
Six corners to one in United’s favour told the story, but they only had one goal to show for it heading into the break.
In the 52nd minute van Dijk tried to give the Reds some breathing space, doing brilliantly to get rid of Rodrigo Vargas before rounding Muscat, the Dutchman’s finish the only thing lacking as he could not force his shot past Petkovic.
However, any disappointment was soon forgotten as the Reds went two to the good, Cassio winning a free kick in a dangerous position allowing van Dijk to step up and pierce the Victory wall with a rocket into the top corner giving Petkovic no chance.
Danny Allsopp missed a golden chance to pull one back for the home side and he was made to pay as Barbiero scored United’s third with his first touch of the game after replacing Dodd. The midfielder rammed the ball home from less than a metre out after the ball fell to his feet when Iain Fyfe’s goal bound header from a corner was initially kept out by Marvin Angulo.
Van Dijk then made it 13 goals for the season to extend his lead at the top of the goal scoring charts when he got a telling touch to beat an encroaching Petkovic to a bouncing ball to make it 4-0.
Tempers threatened to boil over as a frustrated Victory had no answers to the Reds’ onslaught, although the home side did receive the latest of consolations as Mate Dugandzic scored with the last kick of the game.
With a weekend break to look forward to, four of their remaining five games at home and a host of players set to be back from injury, including Eugene Galekovic, Nigel Boogaard, Mathew Leckie and Andy Slory, things appear to be coming together at the right time for the Reds.
“I’m happy with the week off now, especially with a good feeling after a game like that, there are a couple of players who need a rest so that will be good for them and we can prepare the rest of the players for the week after and then there is more of the squad available, which is what we need for the last couple of games,” Coolen said.
Melbourne Victory 1 (Dugandzic 90+3’)
Adelaide United FC 4 (Flores 12’, van Dijk 56’/78’, Barbiero 74’)
Referee: Peter Green
Crowd: 18,558 @ AAMI Park
Adelaide United: 20.Mark BIRIGHITTI (gk), 2.Robert CORNTHWAITE, 4.Iain FYFE, 6.CASSIO, 8.Adam HUGHES, 9.Sergio VAN DIJK (7.Lucas PANTELIS 81’), 10.Marcos FLORES, 13.Travis DODD (c) (18.Fabian BARBIERO 73’), 14.Cameron WATSON, 17.Iain RAMSAY, 21.Francisco USUCAR (12.Paul REID 78’)
Substitutes not used: 1.Eugene GALEKOVIC (gk)
Yellow cards: Usucar 46’, Barbiero 76’, Flores 79’
Red cards: Nil
Melbourne Victory: 1.Michael PETKOVIC (gk), 2.Kevin MUSCAT, 8.Grant BREBNER, 9.RICARDINHO (3.Mate DUGANDZIC 73’), 12.Rodrigo VARGAS, 13.Diogo FERRERIA, 14.Billy CELESKI, 16.Carlos HERNANDEZ, 18.Danny ALLSOPP, 19.Evan BERGER (6.Leigh BROXHAM 87’), 23.Adrian LEIJER (11.Marvin ANGULO 46’)
Substitutes not used: 20.Sebastian MATTEI (gk)
Yellow cards: Ricardinho 26’, Muscat 56’/64’, Berger 76’, Allsopp 81’, Angulo 86’
Red cards: Muscat 64’