Sea­son on edge af­ter third-straight de­feat

Sunday Mail - - SPORT - ROB GREENWOOD

ADE­LAIDE United’s hor­ror run is in dan­ger of de­rail­ing its sea­son as a third-straight loss left it star­ing up at the ALeague’s top six last night.

The patched-up Reds fell to a 2-1 de­feat to New­cas­tle Jets at Hind­marsh Sta­dium last night af­ter fail­ing to con­vert a promis­ing start into their first home league win of the cam­paign.

Nikola Mileusnic gave United a 24th-minute lead against the un­beaten vis­i­tors with a cool fin­ish fol­low­ing his side’s high-tempo open­ing to the Re­mem­brance Day con­test. But Ben Kan­tarovski’s equaliser in the dy­ing mo­ments of the first half and An­drew Nab­bout’s win­ner just af­ter the break left Ade­laide with­out an A-League vic­tory in four games.

Worse still, both goals were self-in­flicted as a lack of con­cen­tra­tion at the back proved fa­tal. The clash loomed as a piv­otal early sea­son en­counter for United af­ter Cen­tral Coast Mariners’ up­set tri­umph over Syd­ney FC the pre­vi­ous night had dropped it to sev­enth.

Coach Marco Kurz was still miss­ing five first-team reg­u­lars but he had play­maker Karim Mat­mour and striker Baba Di­awara on the bench.

It meant a first A-League start of the sea­son for Ryan Kitto, who be­gan im­pres­sively for the home side which em­ployed an early high press, pin­ning the Jets back in their half. The speedy winger played in Ge­orge Black­wood with a deft flick in the third minute, but the young striker’s close-range ef­fort was well blocked by Jack Dun­can.

The hosts, who started with eight SA-born play­ers, were re­warded for their strong open­ing when Mileusnic broke the dead­lock mid­way through the open­ing pe­riod.

Kitto picked up the ball in­side his own half near the left touch­line and played an inch­per­fect pass in be­hind the Jets’ back four. Mileusnic timed his run per­fectly and held his nerve to steer the ball calmly past the ad­vanc­ing Dun­can.

It was Ade­laide’s first goal in nearly four hours of ac­tion, but it jolted New­cas­tle to life. Reds keeper Paul Izzo pulled off bril­liant saves from Dim­itri Pe­tratos and Roy O’Dono­van in quick suc­ces­sion to pre­serve his team’s lead.

The Jets’ pres­sure fi­nally paid off right on half-time with a move straight off the train­ing ground. Pe­tratos played a quick one-two with O’Dono­van from a cor­ner be­fore con­trol­ling and whip­ping in a deadly cross which Kan­tarovski headed home from 4m.

The sec­ond half was barely two min­utes old when the Reds went be­hind. Cen­tre back Ben War­land played a back­pass to­wards Izzo, but failed to no­tice Nab­bout lurk­ing out­side the penalty area.

The winger could not be­lieve his luck as he cooly rounded the keeper and rolled the ball into an open net.

O’Dono­van squan­dered a glo­ri­ous op­por­tu­nity to in­crease his side’s buf­fer mo­ments later when he fired wide of an open goal.

United looked shell-shocked but it had a call for a penalty waved away when Black­wood went down un­der a chal­lenge from Nigel Boogaard. Kurz threw on Di­awara and Mat­mour for the last half-hour and the move al­most paid dividends, the Al­ge­rian fir­ing a shot just wide and the Sene­galese hit­man nar­rowly head­ing over in in­jury time.

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