Texi Smith and Mike Tuckerman read the tea leaves correctly when it came to finding the winners of the A-League Men elimination finals, scoring a perfect two, while my tipping charge came to an abrupt halt.
The voice of the crowd also hitched its wagon with the Mariners, yet the Reds proved to be the dangerous side many have believed they were for some time and John Aloisi’s Western United held on in a brilliant contest against Wellington a day earlier.
Those results set up our two-legged semis that begin tonight when United and the Victory line up in what stands to be a tense derby.
On Wednesday, Adelaide host again when premiers City take the trip west in the hope of establishing a lead to take back to Melbourne for game two.
Good luck with your tips for the two games and be sure to enter them in the sheet below to have a say in the ladder-leading voice of the people.
Here is the way the rest of the panel see the first legs of the semi-finals playing out.
Western United proved once again in their narrow elimination final win over Wellington that they’re as tough as ever to break down.
They’ve got the best shot-stopper in the league in Jamie Young and they won’t be overawed by a clash with the Melbourne Victory within the friendly confines of AAMI Park.
The nominal visitors will be up for a stoush with their supposed neighbours, but I can’t see anything separating the two sides in the first leg of this semi-final.
Adelaide United finished over the top of the Central Coast Mariners in their elimination final and with Kusini Yengi back to full fitness and Craig Goodwin providing plenty of service, they’ve got plenty of firepower to call upon.
They’ll also have a big crowd behind them at Coopers Stadium and I suspect they’ll spring a surprise against their highly-rated visitors.
Many expect Melbourne City to cruise through to another decider but in my opinion they’re one of the most hot-and-cold sides in the league.
They don’t always appreciate a genuine fight and that’s exactly what the Reds should give them here.
The more I watch Western United, the more I am impressed by the way their attacking weapons complement each other.
While Aleksandar Prijovic is an undoubted talent, the manner in which Lachie Wales, Jerry Skodatis and Connor Pain worked in behind him against the Phoenix had me once again sitting up and tacking notice.
Even Dylan Wenzel-Halls’ work made space for others and the overall attacking shapes appear to be working a treat for John Aloisi, as we enter the biggest games of the season.
For those reasons United can win this fixture, yet they are playing a team that appears to have forgotten how to lose.
The last time the Victory did so in the A-League Men was on February 16 and confidence levels must be sky high in Tony Popovic’s team.
I feel that Western’s defensive prowess could well hold a lead should they establish one and the Victory’s challenge will be to convert the chances they create, else a frustrating day in the office against the miserly men in green and black could unfold.
Western to win the first leg of the semi.
An A-League Men finals series upset is enticing and Adelaide have a brilliant chance to ruffle City’s feathers in front of a home crowd and with all the expectation on the visitors.
Such a result would set up an enormous return leg and with City yet to find their best since returning from the Asian Champions League qualifiers, this is perhaps the perfect moment for the Reds to strike.
Juande and Isaias are holding the fort superbly in the middle, while Kusini Yengi and Craig Goodwin should both simply have the word ‘dangerous’ tattooed into their foreheads.
I’m seeing a result that will further ignite the finals series and one that will have Adelaide cock-a-hoop and ready to send its boys to Melbourne this weekend to finish the job.
Victory fans can’t get enough of AAMI Park, even supporting Wellington from their usual spot in the North End as they missed out on the premiership by a whisker.
They’re back again as the away team for this midweek first leg, but they’ll have no issues with being outnumbered or outsung.
The Victory are the form team and you have to go back to their three-game losing streak in February to find any chinks in their armour.
In Leo Lacroix, Western United have the man required to stop the Victory in their tracks, but he can’t do it alone.
Despite Aleksandar Prijovic providing the target and the motor that is Dylan Wenzel-Halls roaring in and around the penalty area and the Victory looking shaky early on in defence, it will be the visitors who step up and score two goals on the run.
Nick D’Agostino will latch on to a route one ball from the back to lift a sublime finish past Jamie Young for the first and just as United are working out how to get back into the game, a second from the head of Francesco Margiotta will wrap up the game and give last year’s wooden spooners a glorious opportunity to advance to the big dance.
The mood in Adelaide is one of optimism as their over-achieving heroes sign off at the Coopers Stadium cauldron for the season.
They know it will be tough against the reigning premiers and champions Melbourne City, who have been afforded some time to calm themselves after a frantic few weeks.
Jamie Maclaren will be deployed as a lone striker in an odd formation as City look to the weekend to finish the job at home.
Stefan Colakovski will be deployed to provide some X-factor to the City team and Marco Tilio will be given the free role to make things happen in the middle of the park.
This is perhaps the future of City, but they will be found out. United’s direct play is a joy to watch as the wide men are again firing.
Forward Kusini Yengi’s long legs and height will be the focus of all crosses, but Hiroshi Ibusuki will score first for Adelaide, ghosting in unmarked to finish off a deep Ryan Kitto cross that catches the City defence flat-footed.
City will hit back immediately, Mathew Leckie cutting in and drilling in a shot from distance that Joe Gauci can’t hold, then Maclaren pouncing to poach an equaliser from a yard out.
But a superb spectacle of a second half will see Craig Goodwin win and convert a penalty before Yengi provides the icing on the cake, volleying home Lachlan Brook’s teasing cross from the edge of the area to set this tie alight.
Has City’s stellar season ended prematurely?
|Semi-finals (leg 1)||Mike||Simon||Stuart||Texi||The Crowd|
|WUN vs MVC||DRAW||MVC||WUN||MVC||?|
|ADL vs MCY||ADL||DRAW||ADL||ADL||?|