Adelaide 2 Sydney FC 1
Bound for the ground ... Sebastian Ryall is sent flying. Photo: Brendan Esposito
THE NIGHTMARE rolls on for another week. Sydney FC went within three minutes of stopping the bleeding but in the end the wound was still gaping.
To be fair, Adelaide United deserved nothing less than three points. So easily superior in the first half, they earned what they departed with. Sydney challenged briefly after the break when Yairo Yau's effort cancelled Fabio Ferreira's opener, creating hope of a point.
However, Sydney weren't nearly good enough to close it out. With time ticking away, Nigel Boogaard's effort rattled the crossbar after a neat interchange with Bruce Djite. Evan Kostopoulos missed the follow-up but Dario Vidosic, perhaps the best player of the night, tucked home the resulting volley.
Worthy attempt ... Alessandro Del Piero shoots at goal. Photo: Brendan Esposito
On his return to the club he was sacked from in January 2009, John Kosmina would delight in the final outcome. They're breathing clear air on top of the ladder.
''Our guys showed a lot of character, a stack of character to stay alive in the game and score the winner the way we did,'' he said.
By contrast, Sydney are managerless, rudderless, and maybe hopeless. It's hard to imagine them making the finals without a drastic change and that's exactly what the new coach must bring.
''We got the goal and looked likely to score the next one as well but that's football. It's tough to take,'' said interim coach Steve Corica, who couldn't fathom why Sydney so often wait for the opposition to score first before lifting their own game.
''That I can't answer. It's a difficult one. It'd be great if we could start that way. It's just the way things are going for us at the moment.''
Sydney's appetite for both their club and Friday night football was put to the test as an underwhelming crowd of 13,317 made their way to Moore Park. Three straight defeats, where 14 goals were conceded, certainly cleared out any bandwagoners.
Understandably, Corica wanted to change things up. He brought Adam Griffiths into centre-half and moved Seb Ryall to right-back. Terry Antonis returned to a five-man midfield, with Alessandro Del Piero isolated in attack. Jason Culina, in his first game in two years, had to settle for a spot on the bench.
The story of the first half could be expressed fairly simply. Adelaide got a hold of the ball and wouldn't give it back. Sydney could have been two or three down by the main break and had the assistant referee been on his game, he would have awarded Marcelo Carrusca his first A-League goal. Carrusca ghosted through Sydney's defence to Jeronimo Neumann's through ball before chipping past Ivan Necevski, only for it to be called back. To be fair, Sydney were given several harsh off-side calls later in the night.
Adelaide were hunting an opener and that came not long after when a scintillating through ball from defence was met with a gorgeous back-heel by Vidosic (who Kosmina later said should be in the Australian team) setting Ferreira through on goal.
The Portuguese midfielder - who was playing in the NSW lower leagues with Dulwich Hill barely six months ago - didn't waste the opportunity. His deft touch shouldn't have surprised; he did come through the youth ranks of Chelsea, after all.
Who else but Del Piero was Sydney's best threat. He nearly equalled things up on the stroke of half-time with a classic free kick that brought the best from Eugene Galekovic, who acrobatically tipped the ball over. It was, however, very much an isolated opportunity by the time both teams headed for the dressing rooms.
But as has so often happened before at this very venue, the door wasn't shut on the home team as it should have been. A vibe of urgency rattled around stands. The fans behind Sydney's goal began to will the ball towards them.
Fixty-six minutes had passed when Pascal Bosschaart threaded an ambitious ball towards Yau but he showed the pace of an Olympic sprinter to burn past Iain Fyfe and catch Galekovic out of position.
Not long after, Seb Ryall had a minute to remember. First, he was shown a yellow - then a red card - by Green, who quickly realised the defender had only one caution. He followed up seconds later by throttling a stiff shot that Galekovic had to parry away.
That was Sydney's chance to win it. Unfortunately for the hosts, when Adelaide's came, they took it.