Adelaide United have claimed a crucial victory in a supremely entertaining eight-goal thriller over fellow finals aspirants Perth Glory.
The Reds scored four first-half goals in what commentator Brenton Speed labelled a “stunning blitz” of Perth Glory – and it would have been five if not for a saved penalty.
The goals kept flowing in an expansive second stanza, with the sides trading strikes in a Sydney shootout that finished 5-3.
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Reds’ first-half blitz
MATCH CENTRE: STATS, COMMENTARY, AND MORE
The Reds continued their unbeaten form since the A-League restart (1W, 1D) with an “absolutely devastating” first-half performance according to ex-Socceroo Mark Bosnich, although Glory managed to find a goal of their own in an unbelievable flurry of goals.
And the action hardly slowed down in the second half, with Adelaide substitute Pacifique Niyongabire scoring his maiden goal just three minutes after entering the field, and celebrating with an acrobatic backflip. It was the 20-year-old’s second appearance in the competition.
But Perth’s superstar Bruno Fornaroli ensured it wasn’t all one-way-traffic with a clinical finish to make it 5-2.
And a successful penalty from Perth’s Juande with seven minutes remaining meant the final score finished with just a two-goal differential, despite Glory’s performance being thoroughly underwhelming for coach Tony Popovic.
The win means Adelaide moves equal with fifth-place Perth on 34 points, a crucial victory for their finals hopes.
Western United sit in seventh on 30 points, having played two games less than Perth and three less than Adelaide.
Reds’ goal backflippin’ good!
HOW IT HAPPENED
Adelaide wide man Ben Halloran won a controversial penalty after a quarter of an hour following a soft collision with Perth defender Jacob Tratt.
But Adelaide’s home-grown superstar Riley McGree couldn’t convert, his poor penalty saved by Glory keeper Liam Reddy.
But there was nothing the gloveman could do when the Reds netted two goals in a three-minute hurricane soon after.
Michael Jakobsen headed home from the near post to open the scoring from a perfectly-placed corner from young gun Taras Gomulka in the 27th minute. It was just the veteran’s third A-League goal and his first since March 2018.
Reds teenager Lachlan Brook scored his maiden goal exactly 120 seconds later, curling the ball past Reddy after he was teed up by Norwegian striker Kristian Opseth.
Opseth profited from another Tratt error, picking off a wayward pass to spark a quick counter-attack to make it 2-0. Tratt would be taken off at half-time as Perth tried to turn things around.
But Adelaide’s dominance was soon challenged when Perth youngster Kristian Popovic hit back in the 33rd minute after a luscious chipped pass from Neil Kilkenny.
With no VAR on offer, a questionable decision not to call the teenager offside sparked controversy – as did the referee’s decision not to award Adelaide a foul in the lead-up to the goal.
Pacifique Niyongabire of United celebrates his first goal.Source: Getty Images
The Reds didn’t have to wait long to hit back, scoring on the back of another corner in the 37th minute.
Kristian Opseth headed home the easiest of goals after keeper Liam Reddy slipped inside his own six-yard box and was left flailing helplessly on his back.
Reddy was in all sorts once again on the brink of half time after Ben Halloran charged down the sideline and aimed his strike at the far post, only for the ball to deflect off a defender past the stranded keeper.
Socceroos great Mark Bosnich said: “This could be a cricket score”, while Brenton Speed was left questioning: “Can you believe it?” after Adelaide’s fourth goal.
Perth managed to claw their way back with a strong showing in the opening minutes of the second stanza, only for another Adelaide youngster to find the net.
Substitute Pacifique Niyongabire emerged off the bench on the hour mark then blasted a clinical strike just three minutes after coming onto the field. His celebration was even better, landing an acrobatic backflip.
Superstar attacker Bruno Fornaroli then added to his stellar scoring record in the league by turning and driving a half-volley into the Adelaide net, ensuring Perth still had some hope of salvaging something with fifteen minutes to go.
And the comeback continued when Adelaide’s Ryan Kitto gifted an unnecessary penalty by leaning into the back of Perth attacker Jake Brimmer.
With Fornaroli having been substituted off, Juande stepped up and converted the penalty in the 83rd minute, making it 5-3 to Adelaide.