Melbourne City has moved up to fourth on the A-League table and set itself up nicely for the second Melbourne derby of the season with a 2-0 win in Adelaide on Sunday night.
A first half own goal and a second half strike by midfielder Luke Brattan sealed the points for Warren Joyce's side. The Reds had a late flurry of opportunities but never managed to find a way back once Brattan had doubled the visitors lead five minutes into the second period.
On target: Luke Brattan celebrates putting City 2-0 up.Credit:AAP
Ritchie De Laet's inclusion after missing the narrow loss in Perth gave City a major boost – at least for the short time the Belgian was involved.
De Laet is quick and incisive in the tackle and a leader on the pitch, and he made an impact until forced off with an injury after just 20 minutes, pressing Joyce into a reshuffle he certainly didn't need.
Nathaniel Atkinson, the youngster who was forming a tandem with De Laet on the right of midfield was forced to drop to right back, and the even more precocious Ramy Najjarine, who is still a teenager, entered the fray off the bench sooner than he might have expected.
The coach would have been delighted with the way his players adjusted to the setback.
Timely intervention: Ritchie De Laet slides in with a tackle on Craig Goodwin of Adelaide.Credit:AAP
De Laet showed his importance in the first minute with an excellently timed tackle to deny Craig Goodwin a shot; it was one of the few occasions the Adelaide winger, who is in the frame for the Asian Cup squad, was to have much involvement in a disappointing first half for the hosts.
Eugene Galekovic, a former Reds captain but now City's number one, had to be out smartly to take Ben O'Halloran's cross, while a few minutes later the Adelaide striker was off target with a scuffed shot that failed to work the goalkeeper.
With their captain, the Spanish midfielder Isais constantly probing and pressing, as is his wont, Adelaide mounted attacks but all broke down before they could create any meaningful threat.
Isais is normally a key figure for Adelaide, but City managed to close him down and mute his influence thereafter.
Last gasp: City goalkeeper Eugene Galekovic clears under pressure from Adelaide’s Benjamin Halloran Credit:AAP
In the continued absence of Bruno Fornaroli – it is now impossible to see how he can win his way back into the fold – City is relying on enthusiastic young forward Lachlan Wales to operate at the point of the attack ahead of a surfeit of midfielders who are encouraged to break forward quickly in support.
Wales is a willing worker, and he tried linking with several team-mates. Riley McGree's through ball almost found him save for Reds goalkeeper Paul Izzo's quick intervention while at the other end Isais found Nikola Mileusenic, making his first start of the season, whose cutback couldn't quite reach Adelaide's Danis striker Ken Ilso .
If City were despondent at De Laet's ill fortune they didn't show it, and took the lead shortly after his departure in the 25th minute.
Wales did well to create space for a pass to McGree, who got to the byline and drove over a cross which Jordan Elsey could only turn into his own goal as he tried to clear.
Loud and clear: City coach Warren Joyce directs his players from the sidelines.Credit:AAP
It was the spur for City to exert themselves on this game, and they had more of the possession and while they didn't create any clear cut chances, neither did their opponents.
Adelaide's response was muted: Galekovic took a couple of crosses without too much trouble, although Goodwin had a great chance to ut them level on the stroke of half time when he had time to direct his header on target, only to push it wide of the post.
Reds boss Marco Kurz looked to shake up his attack in the second period by bringing on Ryan Kitto for Mileusnic, but five minutes after the restart City doubled their lead, giving their hosts an even tougher assignment.
Kneesy does it: City’s Scott Jamieson goes down in a clash with Benjamin Halloran.Credit:AAP
Again Wales played a major role, picking the ball up on the left he pulled back a pass for Dario Vidosic, who touched the ball back to the edge of the area to midfielder Luke Brattan. The one time Socceroo has a habit of scoring from distance, and he picked his shot and drove towards goal: Izzo got a hand on the ball but couldn't precent it from going in.
Their tails up, City started stroking the ball around as they looked to exploit Adelaide's need to get forward. Tall centre back Harrison Delbridge forced Izzo to dive low to save with a header.
Adelaide could have got themselves back in contention with 22 minutes remaining when Goodwin wriggled free on the left but when pulling a pass back to the unmarked O'Halloran might have been the better option he instead shot wide.
Adelaide defender Scott Galloway almost gave his team a lifeline with a shot in the 73rd minute but Galekovic produced an excellent reflex save to punch clear.
The goalkeeper was then down sharply to palm away Kitto's low cross before Galloway's shot flew across the area and then wide.
That was as close as they came, and City return to Melbourne with a six day turnaround before facing a rampant Victory at AAMI Park on Saturday night.
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