Adelaide United and Melbourne City still deadlocked after tense first leg of semi-final

Adelaide United coach Carl Veart says the Reds are full of belief after a goalless draw with Melbourne City in Adelaide in the first leg of the A-League Men’s semi-final.

The Reds flew out of the blocks at Adelaide’s Coopers Stadium and went on the attack early, earning a series of corners before Hiroshi Ibusuki unleashed unexpectedly from the edge of the area in the fifth minute only for it to fly wide.

Under pressure in the early stages, City slowly settled into a groove and in the 23rd minute forced Joe Gauci into his first save when Mathew Leckie slipped through Jamie Maclaren then fired a worm-burning low ball into the legs of the goalie.

Soon afterward, Maclaren had another chance after Conor Metcalfe headed down an aerial ball only for the City striker to send it long and high over the crossbar. Another Metcalfe’s shot from outside the box was safely parried away minutes later.

City frittered a golden chance after the restart when Carl Jenkinson sprayed a shot across the face of goal for Maclaren, who got a touch but missed the opportunity despite Gauci being committed. Adelaide launched a raid of their own in the 70th minute but the right cross by Javi Lopez found only a follicle or two of Craig Goodwin’s attempted header and another chance went begging.

The stalemate looked like finally being broken when Andrew Nabbout snaffled a through ball from Meltcalfe, shrugging off two United defenders to boom a ball through low but it hit the upright to keep duck eggs on the scoreboard at the siren.

Adelaide United must quickly turn their attention to the return fixture at AAMI Park on Sunday in a bid to reach their first grand final since 2016 when they defeated Western Sydney Wanderers 3-1 to record their maiden championship.

The Reds coach said his side had consistently punched well above their weight this campaign and is calling for them to produce the same fight they’ve demonstrated all season.

“We’re one of the smaller clubs, there’s a few of us around the league that have a very different budget to a lot of the big teams,” Veart said. “But on our day, we’ll fight and I think you saw that tonight and all season – we fight and we don’t give up.

“We try to play an attractive brand of football and if we manage to get the result on Sunday, that would be great,” Veart added. “The boys should be proud of what we’ve done this season but we still believe we’ve got a lot more to do.”

With the tie hanging in the balance and playing the second leg on their home deck, City appear to have the advantage. But the minor premiers lost 2-1 to Adelaide at AAMI Park earlier in the season and haven’t beaten a top-four side this campaign – a fact not lost on Veart.

“It’s finals football, there’s pressure on both sides,” he said. “I suppose the pressure is on them that they still haven’t beaten a top-four side so we’ll go there full of confidence. We know we won there earlier in the season so we’ve got good belief in what we’re doing.”

City coach Patrick Kisnorbo also remains confident heading into the second leg, despite not recording a win against the other three teams who finished in the top four.

The minor premiers drew twice and lost once against second-placed Melbourne Victory, as they did against Adelaide, while losing twice and drawing once to Western United, who finished third.

Kisnorbo said achieving back-to-back minor premierships warranted more respect than what City were currently receiving.

“It’s a funny one, he said. “You say it like it’s a negative but when you look at it, we were consistently the best team over 26 games. “I don’t like when people say that because it’s disrespectful to the team. Because we’re the second team that’s ever done what we’ve done. So sometimes, teams need to get credited with the achievement.

“But when we focus on tonight, I thought we were excellent.”

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