Reds seal home final in eight-goal thriller
ADELAIDE United has rounded out its roller-coaster regular season by securing a home final with a heart-stopping win in an eight-goal thriller against Brisbane Roar.
The Reds came into Thursday's Anzac Day clash at Suncorp Stadium knowing victory in the round-27 clash would guarantee hosting rights in the first weekend of the playoffs.
They left the Queensland capital with a dramatic 5-3 triumph, having come from behind on two occasions to secure a priceless success.
Incredibly it came just 12 weeks after United had prevailed 4-3 in the previous meeting between the sides at Hindmarsh Stadium.
Nikola Mileusnic opened the scoring early for the Reds, only for Dylan Wenzel-Halls and Nick D'Agostino to give the hosts an unlikely lead before half-time.
A close-range George Blackwood finish and a Craig Goodwin blockbuster levelled the score after the break, either side of an Eric Bautheac penalty for the hosts.
Substitute Baba Diawara regained United's lead in his first appearance since round two, before captain Isaias sealed the result for the visitors with a clever strike five minutes from full-time.
It ensured United would finish the campaign fourth and host an elimination final against either Wellington Phoenix or Melbourne City next weekend.
It also extended Adelaide's unbeaten run to five matches heading into the business end of the season.
The Reds bolted out of the blocks but threw away their early advantage due to two defensive lapses late in an opening period it largely controlled.
They took a fourth-minute lead thanks to Mileusnic's fifth goal of the campaign, after Adelaide showed patience to keep the ball for a sustained period and shift the Roar defence laterally.
Isaias found Ryan Kitto on the left and the wide man made space for himself before whipping in a pinpoint delivery that Mileusnic headed home unmarked from 5m.
The Roar, who had new coach Robbie Fowler watching from the stands, was giving United space in the front third to move the ball at ease and line up deliveries from dangerous areas.
Ben Halloran hit an effort straight at Brisbane goalkeeper Jamie Young after being found by Isaias and Goodwin sliced a back post volley well wide from a Mileusnic cross.
The Reds were left ruing their squandered opportunities when Brisbane equalised against the run of play in the 35th minute.
Paul Izzo shanked a clearance to Daniel Leck near the halfway line and the ball found its way to Matt McKay, playing his final game before retirement.
The Roar skipper was allowed to advance to edge of the United area and fire off a shot that Izzo beat away but only as far as Wenzel-Halls, who slammed in the equaliser.
Blackwood struck a low drive narrowly wide after doing well to ride three Roar challenges and planted a header just over from Scott Galloway's delivery.
But the hosts took a shock lead to the break after referee Shaun Evans allowed play to enter the 50th minute despite just three minutes stoppage time being signalled by the fourth official.
United failed to properly clear a corner, which was recycled wide right to Bautheac.
The Frenchman, a constant menace for the Reds, crossed for D'Agostino to rise unchallenged and nail a close-range header.
Adelaide levelled six minutes after the restart thanks to another piece of quality from Goodwin.
The three-cap Socceroo burst down the left and expertly flicked the bouncing ball away from Jacob Pepper, who had stooped to attempt a clearing header.
Goodwin steadied and squared a low delivery for Blackwood to convert.
A seesawing contest swing again when a delightful pass by impressive youngster Zach Duncan fed D'Agostino into the area, who was up-ended by Izzo.
Bautheac opted for a panenka dink down the centre of the goal from the resulting spot kick, which dribbled over the line as the Adelaide No.1 dived to his right.
But the Reds again squared the ledger 19 minutes from time as Goodwin ended his eight-game goal drought with another piece of genius.
A sublime piece of control on the left wing set it up, before the SA-born talent cut inside and fired an unstoppable finish high into the top corner.
Amazingly Diawara handed Adelaide the lead four minutes later after replacing Nikola Mileusnic for his first game since October.
The excellent Galloway flashed an accurate low cross into the path of the Senegalese hitman to clinically stroke past Jamie Young.
It was Diawara's maiden goal since April 15 last year.
Brisbane substitute Charles Lokoli Ngoy poked an effort goalwards that Izzo diverted around the post via his foot.
The Reds sealed the three points at the death.
Goodwin knocked Isaias' corner back to where it came and the captain easily skipped past Wenzel-Halls before steering a beautiful finish into the far corner from a tricky angle.