Ben Halloran is congratulated by his teammates at full time after scoring the winning goal during the A-League Elimination Final match.
Ben Halloran is congratulated by his teammates at full time after scoring the winning goal during the A-League Elimination Final match.

Reds’ 119th-minute winner crushes City’s finals dream

Melbourne City suffered the most excruciating of finals heartbreaks, beaten by a last-minute extra-time striker from Adelaide United's Ben Halloran.

With the match destined for a penalty shootout with neither side able to break the deadlock for 119 minutes and fatigue setting in Ritchie de Laet, one of City's best players all season, missed his clearance as cramp set in.

City was gallant in elimination final defeat and looked the stronger as the game wore on, but in finals the one percenters count.

United fed off the energy produced by the electric 13,232 Coopers Stadium crowd to get it over the line - the by-product of finishing four points and a spot above City in fourth.

With several United players cramping in the dying stages, including captain Isaias, they will have a tough task recovering ahead of the short turnaround for Friday's semi-final away to Premier's Plate winners Perth Glory.

 

Ben Halloran charges off after landing the winning goal with a minute to spare in extra time.
Ben Halloran charges off after landing the winning goal with a minute to spare in extra time.

SELECTION SHOCK

City coach Warren Joyce surprised everyone, including his United counterpart by benching captain Scott Jamieson, with Harrison Delbridge favoured at left-back in a 4-3-3 formation.

It worked as the deceptively quick and strong Delbridge muzzled speedy winger Nikola Mileusnic.

But United had joy through the centre as Kearyn Baccus struggled to break them down in his holding role early on.

Halloran got in behind City's defence and was slipped through by full-back Scott Galloway, but blasted onto the crossbar.

Keeper Eugene Galekovic's stadium familiarity helped as he raced off his line to snuff out a Mileusnic chance on the sole occasion he broke through.

Frenchman Florin Berenguer had City's best chance of the first half, but he fluffed Shayon Harrison's cross.

 

United’s Craig Goodwin to take a shot on goal.
United’s Craig Goodwin to take a shot on goal.

 

ARM-WRESTLE

With both teams a touch gun-shy after inconsistent seasons, the cagey affair continued in the second half although there was no shortage of desperation with both sets of defences throwing their bodies on the line.

Delbridge blocked a goal-bound strike from Craig Goodwin, while Frenchman Berenguer wriggled free and toe-poked just wide as tiring legs saw the game open up.

Riley McGree, up and about against his first A-League club, found space and unleashed a scorcher from 25 yards that was tipped over the bar.

Plan B then came into effect for United, as striker Baba Diawara, fresh from scoring his first goal of an injury-ravaged season, came on with 15 minutes of normal time left.

Isaias came within a whisker of scoring, curling a free-kick just wide of the post.

 

Ben Halloran and his teammates celebrate the winning goal.
Ben Halloran and his teammates celebrate the winning goal.

 

 

EXTRA-TIME SCENES

Perth Glory coach Tony Popovic was watching on from the stands and he would have been delighted when it ticked over into extra-time, ahead of Friday's semi-final match-up.

Joyce gambled that it would go the distance, waiting until extra-time to make his first substitution sending on winger Lachlan Wales and he had a chance within minutes as he cut inside Galloway but couldn't get purchase on the shot.

The game completely opened up in extra-time as fatigue kicked in.

Harrison drew a stunning save from Paul Izzo after cleverly losing two United defenders.

Galekovic was saved by the upright, as Ben Halloran's shot from a tight angle struck the keeper's leg before luckily rebounding to back into his gloves.

But he couldn't do anything to stop Halloran's late strike, released after some superb hold up play from Diawara after Goodwin broke down the left to spark wild scenes among the locals on and off the field.

 

Craig Goodwin celebrates Ben Halloran’s goal.
Craig Goodwin celebrates Ben Halloran’s goal.

 

 

 

ADELAIDE UNITED 1 (Halloran 119)

MELBOURNE CITY 0

Adelaide United advances to the semi-final

Crowd: 13,232 at Coopers Stadium

United (4-2-3-1): Izzo; Galloway, Marrone, Jakobsen, Kitto (Elsey 121); Isaias, Boland (Lia 113); Mileusnic (Diawara 77), Halloran, Goodwin; Blackwood (Stametolopolous 113).

City (4-3-3): Galekovic; de Laet, Schenkeveld, Good, Delbridge (Jamieson 106); Baccus, McGree, Brattan (Griffiths 101); Harrison, Berenguer (Wales 91); Maclaren (Vidosic 105).

Referee: Kurt Ams

Red cards: Nil.

DAVUTOVIC'S MAN OF THE MATCH

ISAIAS (United)

The United skipper controlled the match and directed traffic from deep, and was crucial in keeping City at bay when they threatened to run over the top of the home side.

 

Ben Halloran celebrates the winning goal as City players react to the killer blow.
Ben Halloran celebrates the winning goal as City players react to the killer blow.

 

JOYCE STAYS COY ON FUTURE

Gutted Melbourne City coach Warren Joyce refused to elaborate on his future, admitting Sunday night's last-gasp elimination final defeat was tough to put into words.

Ben Halloran's last-minute winner booked Adelaide a semi-final playoff away to minor premier Perth Glory on Friday night.

It completes a below-par season for City, which fell well short of its goal of qualifying for the Asian Champions League, ousted at the elimination-final phase for the third time in six finals attempts.

It's also a hurdle short of last season's semi-final finish in Joyce's maiden season.

His future will come under scrutiny, with the Englishman's two-year contract expiring, but he was focused only on last night's game.

"I don't think it's the appropriate time to talk about it. It'll come out in due course. I'm stubborn, I've got pride, I don't think we've regressed,'' he said.

"It's tough to take. Really disappointed. Proud of the lads, the way they conducted themselves tonight and all season. You can't say much really. We had a really good week, players fighting for places, senior players disappointed not to be starting."

On the goal City conceded, Joyce said: "I thought Ritchie (de Laet) stretched with cramp, ball went on. They got a cross in, we held them up, good defending, but it sneaks in at the near post.

"It maybe could've been avoided in a few areas. But that's football."

Adelaide counterpart Marco Kurz let off a roar of emotion at the final whistle
in a highly charged match where tensions ran high, with referee Kurt Ams booking the United coach for dissent.

It sets up an intriguing narrative in Adelaide, after United chairman Piet van der Pol announced that Kurz would leave at the end of the season regardless of how the side fared.

 

Nikola Mileusnic and City’s Harrison Delbridge.
Nikola Mileusnic and City’s Harrison Delbridge.