The Western Sydney Wanderers travelled to Adelaide in a 5 v 6 contest with significant finals implications, subplots involving James Troisi and multiple players on both sides coming up against their former side. Both sides shared a point and a red card, Simon Cox's 68th minute goal cancelling out Tomi Juric's 11th minute header while Mark Natta and Loius D'Arrigo both took an early red card shower.
Patrick Ziegler returned to the starting lineup for the Wanderers with an injury concern apparently keeping Tass Mourdoukoutas on the bench. The Wanderers started brightly, having numerous chances in the opening stages, the most dangerous coming when Troisi hammered a low cross all the way along the turf to the far post with none of his team-mates getting on the end for a tap-in.
Adelaide on the other hand, took their first chance of the game. Mark Natta was dragged out wide and he failed to contain Ben Halloran who delivered a slow, looping cross in the air that Tomi Juric met all of three yards out and directly in the middle of the 6 yard box. Neither Ziggy Gordon or Ziegler could block the Asian Champions League winning striker from knocking the ball down into the bottom corner with Margush stranded after covering the near post. Juric went off to the sideline to apparently take in some painkillers, and later at half-time he was substituted.
The home side were dominant after the goal, and had chances for Loius D'Arrigo and Craig Goodwin to double their lead. On the half-hour mark D'Arrigo picked up what would become a costly yellow card, as he attempted a wild clearance up against Thomas Aquilina, missing the ball completely with the referee playing advantage then returning to the scene of the crime to card the 19 year old hotshot.
Loius D'Arrigo was given his marching orders having earned a clear second yellow in the 43rd minute. Mitch Duke picked up the ball deep in the Wanderers half and blazed past D'Arrigo who stupidly dove in and broke up his stride. Jordan Elsey attempted a cover-up by following Duke to the floor but Daniel Elder wasn't fooled, handing out the yellow followed by the red and giving the Wanderers a lifeline.
Despite the clear requirement for changes at half-time, the Wanderers stayed in their usual 5 at the back formation and all it did was allow Adelaide to treat the Wanderers like they were the side playing with a man up. Ben Halloran had a shot that looked certain to finish in the net get deflected out for a corner, in a hilarious spot the officiating team did not see the massive deflection and awarded a goal kick, before the VAR or Fourth Official intervened on the radio. Daniel Margush channelled the ghosts of Vedran Janjetovic & Andrew Redmayne by spilling the ball after coming out to claim it, leaving Ryan Strain an open net but the very acute angle spoiled Strain's opportunity to score his first A-League goal and the ball dribbled out for a throw-in.
Enough was enough for Carl Robinson, on the hour mark he took off Thomas Aquilina, who had a decent game and James Troisi, who was industrious but ineffective, and bought on Simon Cox and Bernie Ibini while adjusting to a four at the back with Ziggy Gordon playing at right fullback. It paid immediate dividends, shifting the momentum to the visitors and they pulled back level in the 68th minute. Ibini had a wide cross blocked, sending the ball high in the air, Duke flicked it on to the benefit of Cox, he smartly volleyed the ball up into the air with his right then kicked out with his left to bump the ball into the turf the past the diving Gauci.
As the Wanderers were setting up a 20 minute session against the Adelaide Parked bus, Mark Natta had other ideas and evened up the player count with a straight red. George Timotheou, who had trialled briefly in Blacktown before moving to Adelaide, pumped a long ball for Stefan Mauk. Natta was goalside but stood up by Mauk's chest down, giving Mauk a bear hug rugby tackle 24 yards out from goal. Mauk, a well known diver barely needed the invitation to fall to the floor, with no cover defence close enough Elder decided the foul denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity and sent off the young defender. The offence was defensible enough for VAR to leave the decision untouched and the sides played out the remaining 15 minutes with 10 on 10.
A flurry of formation changes and substitutions followed as both sides looked to try and find a way to three points. Mourdoukoutas became the fourth Wanderers central defender to see action on the night with Mitch Duke leaving, while half-time Adelaide substitute Al Hassan Toure was himself substituted for Pacifique Niyongabire and Ryan Kitto come on with the exit of Craig Goodwin.
The final chance of the game fell to the Wanderers. Adelaide's attempt at snatching a lst minute win caused them to totally lose their shape at the back, Daniel Wilmering picked up the ball on the left flank and drove toward goal with Kwame Yeboah and Ibini in company against a sole Adelaide defender. Instead of the simple cutback to find Yeboah for a tap-in, Wilmering lofted a poor ball to Ibini on the far side of the goal, it still left Ibini a glorious chance to score but he badly mishit the strike, launching it over the bar as Elder blew for full time.
It was a deeply disappointing ending for Wanderers fans in the back & forth battle for fifth place and one that neither team would be truly happy with. Supporters of the Red & Black are starting to wonder just what it will take before Robinson ditches the failure that is his pet 5 at the back formation and if he has what it takes to elevate the club back to the top of the A-League mountain. The draw leaves the Wanderers languishing in 6th place with Brisbane Roar and Western United chasing with multiple games in hand, for Adelaide the point moved them one place up the ladder on goal difference.
The Wanderers next match is against the Brisbane Roar in Parramatta on Friday April 16th with kick-off at 7:05PM.