A stirring fightback from Adelaide United earned them a 2-2 draw with a 10-man Melbourne City at ANZ Stadium on Tuesday night but may not be enough to earn the gallant Reds an A-League finals berth.
Late goals to Norwegian striker Kristian Opseth and Ben Halloran secured the Reds a share of the points after headers from Uruguayan midfielder Adrian Luna and Socceroos striker Jamie Maclaren had City leading 2-0 at half-time.
City, who had English winger Craig Noone controversially sent off in the 67th minute, missed the chance to chance to seal second spot on the ladder, with third-placed Wellington Phoenix remaining in striking distance with both teams having one game of the regular season to play.
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The draw moved sixth-placed Adelaide three points clear of Western United.
However, the Victorian club has three games in hand and a far superior goal difference, and could end Adelaide’s season as early as Wednesday night with a win over Perth Glory.
Regardless of Wednesday night’s result, the Glory cannot be dislodged from the top six, with Adelaide – who have played all their matches – finishing a point adrift of Perth.
The Reds had named an unchanged team for a fourth match in succession, while Melbourne City made one change, with Nathaniel Atkinson coming in for club captain Scott Jamieson, who returned to Victoria for the birth of his first child.
The woodwork saved Adelaide from disaster in the 23rd minute when a careless back pass from Reds defender Jordan Elsey left his goalkeeper Paul Izzo stranded on its way to hitting the post.
Having survived that scare, the Reds spurned a good chance to take the lead in the 33rd minute when an unmarked Halloran failed to hit the target at the back post after being found by a free-kick from Taras Gomulka.
Adelaide were made to pay for the miss just a minute later when Luna put City ahead.
English winger Craig Noone was the provider with a cross headed home by Luna, who timed his run into the penalty area to perfection.
Adelaide left-back Ryan Kitto had a chance to equalise in the 39th minute with a dipping, long-distance strike that was tipped over the crossbar by City goalkeeper Thomas Glover.
City’s response was again immediate and more clinical, with Maclaren scoring his 20th goal of the season a minute later when he rose high to head home a Luna cross that deflected off Kitto.
Maclaren was in the mood, and it was only the post that denied him a second goal eight minutes in the second half after a blistering shot had Izzo beaten.
City were reduced to 10 men 22 minutes into the second half when Noone was shown a straight red card by referee Alex King for a lunging and late tackle on Reds skipper Michael Jakobsen.
Sensing their opportunity, the Reds threw everything at City and were rewarded in the 78th minute Opseth scored from the penalty spot after a Luna foul on Reds substitute Pacifique Niyongabire.
Halloran’s stoppage-time equaliser was part of a dramatic finish, but the Reds fell short in finding a winner.