Finally the A-League’s 16th season kicked off in what was supposed to be the sequel match.
Of course once again in 2020, COVID-19 had to have the last say once the fixtures were set in sawdust.
Western United and Adelaide United didn’t disappoint the purists in what had become the A-League prequel in unseasonal cool 14C dry conditions, but the money men – the strikers – remained quiet.
Adelaide United’s Ben Halloran came closest to scoring the first goal of the new campaign in the 67th minute, but his angled left-footed drive was expertly scooped away from the goal by the legs of stopper Aaron Calver.
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‘FOR F***’S SAKE GET IN THERE’: Coach’s expletive-laden tirade after tackle
Not one team deserved to lose.
A 0-0 draw was fitting for a clash where quicker ball movement was needed as new Reds striker Tomi Juric said not much had changed since he left Australia in 2015 before returning this year.
“It feels the same the A-League and maybe the quality is just up a little bit,’’ Juric said.
“It’s nice to see that teams want to play football so hopefully the improvements will keep coming.”
Western United’s Alessandro Diamanti has his own language.
He posted his slogan “Poi bo’ on social media just before kick-off, which has now become his signature saying.
The reigning Johnny Warren medal-winning Italian suggested in his own words that ‘Poi bo’ means “living life with passion”.
Adelaide had a tough time containing ‘Poi bo’.
The 37-year-old toyed with a vastly inexperienced Reds midfield that struggled keeping up with his quick mind.
Despite the ageing legs, once Diamanti started to exploit space and was keen to involve Western United’s running men, the visitors’ game plan was put to the test.
Diamanti stinging the palms of new Reds gloveman James Delianov in the 39th minute was a warning against the ex-Western custodian as the home side settled under the Italian’s influential repertoire.
Adelaide boss Carl Veart rewarded two young players on scholarships.
Former Melbourne City attacker Yaya Dukuly, who was born in Guinea to Liberian parents before arriving in Australia in 2004 as a one-year old, made his A-League debut and Noah Smith made his starting debut for the Reds.
Dukuly started brightly and had Western’s defence thinking long and hard about which was his preferred foot.
Former Brisbane Roar midfielder Joe Caletti and Delianov earned Reds debuts too.
But it was Western United’s Spanish signing Victor Sanchez who created much of the Round 1 hype in his A-League debut.
The former Barcelona and Espanyol midfielder lit up Western with a sublime piece of defensive work which saved his club from a shot on target when he expertly predicted where Ryan Strain would lay off the ball once he got inside the box in the eighth minute.
That block kick sparked Western into action after Adelaide dominated the opening stanza but weren’t rewarded as Juric – making his return to the Reds after a seven-year absence – was isolated.
However a long Jordan Elsey ball to Juric could have been the striker’s first Reds goal since scoring two for Adelaide in 2013.
His chip past keeper Filip Kurto didn’t have enough power to cross the line in the 36th minute.
Former Cumberland United striker Ayom Majok – an orphan from South Sudan – made his debut off the bench for the A-League’s record goalscorer Besart Berisha on the hour as Western boss Mark Rudan looked for a game breaker.
Nicolas Milanovic also made his debut off the bench for Western and also produced a bag of tricks.
PRE-SEASON FROM HELL
The lack of consistent pre-season friendly matches against quality opposition due to the pandemic and its effect it had on travelling and finances could mean both clubs are still far from being at their peak.
The pace of the clash was at times pedestrian and not what A-League fans had become accustomed to – at least last season from both clubs.
With Western having to wait another three weeks before its next clash Rudan could be the most concerned while Veart’s men return to the pitch at Hindmarsh against Melbourne City on Sunday.