ADELAIDE United has warmed up for next Wednesday’s ACL Quarter Final first leg with another solid performance knocking off Central Coast Mariners 2-0 in a pre-season trial at Hindmarsh Stadium on Wednesday night.
Second-half goals from Cassio and Sergio van Dijk sees the Reds end their string of pre-season hit outs in winning fashion and showing positive signs entering their opening leg clash with Bunyodkor.
Cassio broke through some stubborn Mariners resistance in the 61st minute to break the deadlock before super sub van Dijk hammered home a shot in the dying minutes, just like he did five days ago against Brisbane Roar, to put a stamp on the result.
Known for their discipline and organisation under coach Graham Arnold, the Mariners ensured there would be no repeat of the goal rush the Reds enjoyed against the Roar last Friday.
The team from Gosford tested the Reds’ patience and ball control in possession, something United are sure to be confronted with at an even higher level when they come up against Bunyodkor.
In a first-half arm wrestle, Dario Vidosic almost made the most of a Mariners mistake inside the opening minute, his piercing low shot going straight at keeper Mat Ryan.
The Reds were then made to sustain some constant Central Coast pressure as Tomas Rogic appeared the greatest threat, but led by captain Eugene Galekovic, United remained sound at the back.
Then with Vidosic pulling the strings in the attacking third, the Reds finished the half the stronger.
First the Reds’ number 10 sent Evan Kostopoulos away down the right in the 24th minute, the fleet footed winger sending a purposeful ball from the right that narrowly missed the outstretched boot of a closely marked Djite.
Minutes later Djite was in the action again as he had the pick of the first half chances when a sublime through ball from Vidosic put him through, but the striker missed the target as he attempted to angle his shot across Ryan.
Enjoying his role in midfield, Cameron Watson also tried his luck, finding the side netting with a free kick as the teams went into the break scoreless.
With United’s defence seemingly in control of any serious attempts from the Mariners, Cassio broke through just after the hour mark when Kostopoulos laid the ball on a plate for the club’s new Australian citizen to coolly slot it past Ryan.
Vidosic sent a scare through the Reds camp as he came from the field with a hamstring injury with just over 15 minutes to go, however initial assessments after the game suggests just tightness in the area.
Then in the final minute, van Dijk once again demonstrated his potency and instinct around the penalty area as he emphatically buried a shot into the back of the net to cap off another encouraging night for a Reds outfit that now turns all of its attention to the first leg of the ACL Quarter Finals next Wednesday.
Arnold said the after match that he knew Adelaide would be a tough proposition.
“Adelaide United’s priority is next week, whereas ours is on October 6 against Western Sydney,” Arnold said. “The game tonight was more about Adelaide and us trying to help prepare them for next week. It was played in good spirits and I think both teams got a lot out of the game.
“And I thought our boys did well. We created plenty of chances and had we taken those chances we may have won the game. We were in it right until van Dijk scored in added time. For our first hit-out against a team as well drilled and prepared as Adelaide, we did well.”
Arnold also took time to wish Adelaide United the best of luck against Bunyodkor.
“I think I speak on behalf of the entire Australian football community when I wish Adelaide well in the Champions League,” he said.
“One of our goals for next season is to make the second round of the AFC Champions League, and represent Australia and the A-League with distinction in Asia.”
Adelaide United FC 2 (Cassio 61’, van Dijk 90+2’)
Central Coast Mariners 0
Adelaide United line-up: 1.Eugene Galekovic (gk), 3.Nigel Boogaard, 6.Cassio, 10.Dario Vidosic (2.Osama Malik 74’), 11.Bruce Djite (9.Sergio van Dijk 68’), 14.Cameron Watson, 16.Daniel Bowles, 17.Iain Ramsay, 18.Fabian Barbiero (19.Jake Barker-Daish 62’), 22.Iain Fyfe, 23.Evan Kostopoulos
Substitutes not used: 4.Jon McKain, 20.Paul Izzo (gk)
Central Coast Mariners line-up: 1.Mathew Ryan (gk), 2.Daniel McBreen (23.Patrick Dixon 68’), 3.Josh Rose, 4.Pedrag Bojic, 6.Patrick Zwaanswijk, 7.John Hutchinson, 8.Adriano Pellegrino, 10.Thomas Rogic, 12.Troy Hearfield 16.Trent Sainsbury, 19.Mitchell Duke (15.Brad McDonald 46’)
Substitutes not used: 13.Brent Griffiths, 18.Hayden Morton, 20.Justin Pasfield (gk)