Tokenism has long been an issue when it comes to the signing of Asian players, especially in Europe where, perhaps not as much now, their signings were often viewed in a cynical light; they’re just there to sell a few shirts.
Melbourne City are within touching distance of a home A-League final after Tim Cahill’s stunning header earned them a well-deserved 1-0 win over Adelaide United.
Yet again, Cahill produced the goods for City, elevating his side above above the Reds in a fiery contest on Friday night.
The veteran Socceroo arched his back perfectly to flick Nicolas Colazo’s corner over the Reds defence and inside the back post on 36 minutes.
It was a goal that very few could have scored or would have even attempted, putting City in the box seat to return to AAMI Park in a fortnight’s time for just their second home final in their history.
Coming into the match off two losses, Michael Valkanis’ side were bright from the get-go, fashioning the best chances of a busy half.
Bruce Kamau should have buried an early chance and later forced goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic to dive at full-stretch to deny his half-volley.
The Reds were rattled. Iacopo La Rocca and Isaias earned bookings for lashing out at City forwards.
Worse, Tarek Elrich was stretchered off before half-time after seeing his knee buckle in a fairly-fought aerial contest with Osama Malik.
The 30-year-old left back headed to hospital for scans, with the club fearing an ACL rupture.
After the break, Kamau continued his assault on Galekovic’s goal, turning Reds defenders inside out without adding to City’s tally.
At the other end, returning centre-back Michael Jakobsen was rarely troubled in his first game back for two months.
Dean Bouzanis’ poor distribution gave Adelaide their best opportunity to equalise, only for Papa Diawara to make a hash of the chance.
The match had plenty of flashpoints but no formal reviews by the world-first video assistant referee, which began an A-League trial in the match.
The three points took City to 39 points, five clear of fifth-placed Western Sydney and a further point above Perth Glory, their round 27 opponents.
Adelaide dropped to ninth with the result, and could yet end up with the wooden spoon.