Late goal completes Reds’ drama-packed comeback
Seven goals, three red cards and a priceless three points for Adelaide United.
That was the equation on Saturday night as the 10-man Reds fought back to grab an incredible 4-3 win over nine-player Brisbane Roar in one of the most eventful A-League clashes witnessed at Hindmarsh Stadium.
United somehow recovered from Ken Ilso's puzzling early dismissal and a three-goal first-half deficit to earn a heart-stopping victory thanks to Nikola Mileusnic's stoppage-time winner.
Strikes in the opening period to Henrique, after the intervention of the VAR, Dylan Wenzel Halls and Adam Taggart left the hosts facing an uphill battle.
But Isaias dragged Adelaide back into the contest with a brilliant free kick on the stroke of half-time, before Dane Ingham and Jamie Young were dismissed after the break for the visitors.
Craig Goodwin grabbed the Reds' second, George Blackwood headed home the equaliser and Mileusnic nodded in from fellow substitute Carlo Armiento's cross at the death to send the vocal home crowd into raptures.
It was a match that had everything between two sides which have now combined for eight red cards in their past six meetings.
The controversial contest also spoke volumes for Adelaide's character and resilience.
But the match appeared to have swung in the ninth minute on the back of a baffling refereeing decision.
Attacker Ilso, returning to the Reds' starting XI in place of the injured Ben Halloran, slightly mistimed a tackle on Roar skipper Matt McKay on the edge of the Brisbane box.
Referee Alex King awarded a free kick for the visitors, before brandishing a red card to Ilso despite not consulting either assistant or a sideline replay of the challenge.
The officials had another major say in proceedings as Brisbane took the lead on 19 minutes.
McKay fed Adam Taggart who played a lovely first time pass into the path of Henrique.
The former Reds playmaker steadied before rounding Paul Izzo and slotting the ball into an open goal.
Assistant referee Paul Cetrangolo initially raised his flag to rule the strike out for offside.
But King this time took advantage of a closer look at a replay of the incident and correctly allowed the goal to stand.
Adelaide's misery was compounded in the 38th minute.
Jack Hingert played a dangerous low delivery into the United penalty area which was miss-controlled by Ryan Strain and volleyed home by Wenzel Halls for his first league goal.
Brisbane appeared to have sealed the points when it added a third two minutes before the break as Taggart fired in a low drive from 25m which Izzo might have dealt with better.
But Isaias gave the Reds a lifeline in first-half stoppage time after Goodwin had been brought down right on the edge of the box.
The captain stepped up to clip a delightful free kick into the top left corner past a motionless Young.
Mileusnic and Mirko Boland came on for Ryan Kitto and Nathan Konstadopoulos at the break as Reds coach Marco Kurz looked for fresh legs.
Ingham was sent off on the hour for a second booking after kicking the ball away.
Goalkeeper Young was then dismissed with a straight red card for clattering Goodwin outside the box in a spectacular collision as the Reds winger chased a long Isaias ball.
The Adelaide star fired the resulting free kick into the wall, but recovered expertly to steer an angled finish past substitute keeper Brendan White.
Brisbane was creaking now and United got its deserved equaliser 15 minutes from time.
The brilliant Goodwin, a constant threat throughout, dinked an inch-perfect ball to the back post where Blackwood headed emphatically home.
But the Reds were not to be denied.
Armiento's deep cross was headed in by Mileusnic seven minutes into injury-time as the 7071 home crowd exploded in celebration.
Post-match Kurz praised the never-say-die attitude of his side.
"The team is fantastic, the character is fantastic, I'm very proud about them," the German boss said.
"It was not easy to come back in this game.
"But I was very loud in the half-time because I hate it when we stop to play and we stop to believe and to trust.
"I saw in the first half not a better team from Brisbane.
"I saw after we conceded the first goal, our body language dropped back.
"I said 'look, the first half is away, now we start in the second (half) and the goal is to win the second one.
"But you must trust, you must believe, you must have the body language.
"In the end it was a present for the team for their hard work."
Kurz was highly critical of the decision to dismiss Ilso, implying it was a call by the VAR not the referee.
"For me the question is … who made the decision?" Kurz said.
"The main referee or another person?
"Because the main referee gave nothing and after a couple of seconds it's a red card.
"I work the whole week very hard with my boys.
"At the end, OK we are the lucky winner.
"But you cannot make this performance every week.
"If we are professional we need a high quality on the pitch and on the (VAR) monitor.
"We have to discuss about this because we are professional players.
"It's not an amateur league."