Western Sydney Wanderers and Adelaide United locked in frustrating stalemate
Controversial calls and the A-League seem to go hand-in-hand at the moment. Hardly a match goes by without a refereeing decision seemingly raising the ire of everyone.
Just as it was on New Year's Eve in Gosford, so it was at Pirtek Stadium on the opening day of the new year. The man in the middle, Ben Williams, got some right, a few wrong, and plenty in between. Somehow, both fans feel left feeling he conspired against them - an achievement in itself.
He didn't ruin the game though. Not by a long-shot. The failure of the table-topping Wanderers around goal and the questionable fitness of the Reds was what cost either side victory in front of 16,312, with the result a nil-all draw.
Still, the result means both sides keep their unbeaten streaks intact - the Wanderers' run now stretching to double figures. Adelaide, too, have gone over a month without being beaten. The Reds now sit on the cusp of the top six and should be in there before long.
Adelaide signalled their intent early to get in the face of the home side and after a flurry of early possession, Sergio Cirio fed Bruce Djite into space but his shot was charged down by Andrew Redmayne - and the keeper's commitment saw him catch plenty of Djite's leg.
Cirio again showed his class when he nearly finished off a brilliant team move, expertly curling an effort that seemed goalbound but clipped the crossbar and rebounded to safety. At the other end another Spaniard, Andreu, had his chip tipped over by Eugene Galekovic.
The Wanderers thought they were hard done by in the 17th minute when Federico Piovaccari got the better of Dylan McGowan before poking the ball past Galekovic. However, Williams spied that after the pair initially engaged in mutual shirt-grabbing, McGowan let go and the Italian held on long enough to gain an advantage.
But the referee made a mistake a minute later at the other end. A clumsy tackle from Nikolai Topor-Stanley brought down Michael Marrone with the ball well beyond the defender's reach. All knew it was a penalty. Only Williams disagreed.
That seemed to be the catalyst for the match to turn in the hosts favour.
Until then, Adelaide had managed to impose themselves on the contest to a reasonable degree by virtue of a strong team press that saw them harry and push the Wanderers.
But after half an hour, they seemed to tire, the press fell further and further back, and the Reds ended up retreating into their own half.
Eight minutes before half-time, the Wanderers' most potent attacking option, Romeo Castelen unleashed a fierce, bending drive that Galekovic had to be at his best to keep out.
From the resulting corner, Piovaccari was denied what looked a certain goal when his header was intercepted by Bridge, who somehow managed to poke his effort wide from barely two feet out.
The Wanderers continued to grind in the second half and looked the more likely team to break the deadlock, yet their finishing was costing them the chance to break clear.
Piovaccari, in particular, continued to threaten but still couldn't convert. Nothing seems to go right despite the best of intentions. A shot to the right, a header to the left.
It is a concern that won't go away for the Italian and the more the public talks about it, the more pounds the gorilla on his back seems to gain.
For effort, the fans gave him a considerable ovation upon his substitution, evoking memories of the hard-running Dino Kresinger, who also rarely scored.
The Reds struggled to make territory as the match wore on but they did eek out one golden chance, with defender Craig Goodwin ghosting in at the back post, only to be denied by a reflex save from Redmayne.
Western Sydney very nearly clinched all three points in injury time with when substitute Gol Gol Mebrahtu let fly with a superb free-kick on the edge of the box, only for Galekovic - a clear man of the match - to read it perfectly and poke the ball over the bar to secure a point.
Western Sydney Wanderers 0, Adelaide United 0
- Sydney Morning Herald