Sydney FC 2 Adelaide United 1
Sydney FC vs Adelaide United
Sydney FC's charge to the A-League finals continues as they beat Adelaide United 2-1 at Allianz Stadium to post a club-record fifth straight home win. Photography by Anthony Johnson. Follow us at http://twitter.com/photosSMH Selected Images available from www.fairfaxsyndication.com Photo: Anthony Johnson
SOCCEROOS skipper Lucas Neill might be joining Sydney FC, Alessandro Del Piero may have been embraced as the Harbour City's favourite foreign son, but in the 48th minute of Saturday night's tense match none stood taller than Bankstown teenager Terry Antonis.
Courtesy of his left foot, Antonis provided the Sky Blues with a 1-0 lead. The first half of the match was football's version of trench warfare as both teams defended strongly - and, for the main, smartly.
Bruising encounter ... Del Piero. Photo: Anthony Johnson
The 19-year-old, who has played 32 games for Sydney FC and a grand total of 33 for Australia at all age levels, seized upon his opportunity after some great lead-up work sparked by Rhyan Grant's effort to fight hard to win the ball back.
Antonis fired in a shot from 23 metres, and Adelaide's goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic seemed to have the ball covered but it deflected off teammate Ian Fyfe and left him stranded. As the 15,602-strong crowd savoured the moment, the home team cut loose and in the ensuing 15 minutes Sydney launched attacking raids peppered with Del Piero specials.
Adelaide United cracked in the 66th minute when, in the mad scramble of mis-kicks and air swings as they tried to defuse a Del Piero corner, Blake Powell snuck the ball in under Galekovic's body.
Opened his account ... Terry Antonis. Photo: Anthony Johnson
Adelaide, who proved in their last game against Sydney they never give up, struck back - and sensationally so - via the solidly built Tomi Juric, who made a memorable impression after coming on as a substitute.
It sparked them into action and, with the clock winding down, United attacked with the fervour of a team that believed it could win. Sydney's goalie Vedran Janjetovic, in his white strip, looked like a ghost when he floated above the pack to foil a brazen goal attempt. It gave his team time to breathe and with the crowd imploring Sydney to keep the ball down in Adelaide's territory they held on to secure a well-earned victory.
The openness of the second half was a far cry from the opening stanza when the game was played fast and smart from the outset and subtleties, rather than smash and bash, seemed the key most likely to turn the match.
There were some chances; Del Piero was a constant threat and opened space with his deft flick kicks and gentle feet; Antonis threatened to open the account when he trapped the ball in the 23rd minute. He hit the ball sweetly and the home fans couldn't believe it when his volley sailed an agonising foot over the crossbar.
There were some great duels, too. Fabio and his opposite Daniel Bowles went hammer and tong but, ultimately, the game was won by the team that held its nerve.