TEN man Mariners were beaten 2-1 by Adelaide United after Bruce Djite bagged a double at Hindmarsh in one of the games of the season.
However, at 1-1 in the second half, Matthew Breeze disallowed what seemed a perfectly good goal for the Reds. Controversy was averted though with man of the match Djite scoring shortly after to ensure the Reds took all three points.
The goal came just after Tony Vidmar was red-carded after a second yellow. This was the table topping Mariners' first loss of the season.
Djite said after the match: "I thought it was a goal and it being disallowed was disappointing. As for the goal that was given, I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time."
John Hutchinson of the Mariners added: "Credit to our boys we pushed forward. The boys are more confident this year and better in their mindset. We're still the top of the ladder but we need to back this up next week."
For the Reds, Paul Agostino was again missing through injury. But for the Mariners, former Adelaide favourite Damian Mori started upfront with Sasho Petrovski.
On a beautiful sunny day in Adelaide the conditions were perfect for football on an excellent Hindmarsh surface.
It was an open and entertaining first half. The Reds' Travis Dodd created the first clear opportunity with a flighted cross targetted for Djite but Tony Vidmar got in first and headed clear for the Mariners on two minutes.
And Adam Kwasnik popped up outside the box to fire well wide after another clever variation on the set piece corner by Coast.
But it was Adelaide with the best chance on 10 minutes thanks to Nathan Burns' superb piece of skill to get around Heffernan in the corner before crossing to Djite, but the striker failed to get onto the cross cleanly.
The Mariners hit back with Petrovski who caught the Reds napping with a header on the near post which flew wide. And a few minutes later a superb piece of interplay between Mori and Petrovski set up Damian Brown with a golden opportunity. However, with just the keeper to beat in the box, he shot disappointingly wide.
Burns was tugged back by Boogaard for a free to the Reds. Cassio's flighted cross ended in Burns' snap shot nicely palmed away by Danny Vukovic. But it wasn't long before the striker would make his mark.
He scuttled away down the right on 19 minutes, then checked his run and his low cross was guided home beautifully by his partner in crime Djite. 1-0 to Adelaide.
Burns was giving the Mariners back four a torrid time as he moved from left to right side and occasionally down the centre.
The Mariners won a corner on 27 minutes. A short corner was again worked well releasing Brown but Cassio was just able to poke the ball clear.
Heffernan shouldered Diego off the ball and from the free the ball was eventually cleared but the ball was worked back into the box and Diego was pulled up for high kick on Vidmar.
After 30 minutes, the Reds were on top playing some fluid football.
Petrovski won a free wide on the left of the box against Costanzo and from the cross the Coast had a shout for a penalty on Jedinak. But ref Matt Breeze didn't give them the call.
And Jonas Salley gave away another free in a similar area just minutes later as the Coast mounted a rearguard action. But Danny Beltrame easily collected Brown's flighted cross.
Richie Alagich snuffed out a ball through to Damian Mori with ten minutes to go before the break. From the corner, Petrovski poked the ball home after a stramash in the box.
Alagich almost got a second for the Reds a minute later with a power drive from outside the box which was tipped away for a corner by Vukovic.
Mori got onto the end of a cross with three minutes to go but his flicked header was cleared away by the Reds.
And yet another clever free kick move saw the Mariners almost in for a second but Beltrame was able to punch clear with Kwasnik bearing down on him.
Two minutes after the restart and Sarkies should've scored after a delightful bit of lead up work from Burns and Dodd, but the Olyroo could not beat Vukovic.
And a minute later, Diego shot just wide from inside the box as the Reds began the second stanza right on the offensive.
The Mariners meanwhile were looking to absorb the punches and counter-attack with Mori, Kwasnik and Petrovski.
On 52 minutes, Kwasnik got clear wide right but his cross just eluded a Mariner in the box.
It was end-to-end stuff between two top quality sides. Kwasnik again got down the right but Petrovksi was too slow to get into a goalscoring position.
Two minutes later it really should've been 2-1 to the Reds. Burns' shot was saved by a brilliant one-handed Vukovic, and the rebound was hit by Djite but Brown somehow cleared off the line. A super piece of defending by the Mariners.
It was fast and furious with chances falling mainly to a desperate Adelaide in the first 15 minutes of the second half.
On 60 minutes the alive Mariners once again nearly caught the Reds napping but the danger in the box was averted.
Alagich pushed forward a few minutes later and was able to peel off a shot but it went high and wide.
Ange Costanzo picked up a leg injury but he soldiered on. And just as well as the Mariners had two good chances.
Then on 66 minutes a moment of great controversy. Kristian Sarkies put a ball through to Burns but he was fouled on the edge of the box. The ball fell to Djite who slammed the ball home. Yet, incredibly, ref Breeze pulled the game back for the infringement.
No doubt, this would be a decision that would be debated in great detail after the game. Sarkies took the resultant free but blasted it over.
Andre Gumprecht came on with 20 minutes to go to stiffen the Coast's midfield.
Djite was brought down two minutes later by Boogaard who was carded for his troubles. Sarkies floated cross from wide left was cleared but the Reds picked it up but Alagich's long ball in was ineffective.
Burns once again skipped away from the Coast defence, the ball moved left then right to Dodd but his ball to Djite found the striker tightly marked and the ball was cleared.
Vidmar had to come off with blood pouring out of his knee and while he was off changing his sock, Gumprecht committed a foul just outside the box but Sarkies' delivery was very disappointing as it sailed well wide.
It continued to be end to end stuff as Mori then Dodd had chances.
Vidmar then was red carded for a professional foul on Cassio about 25m out.
Ten-man Mariners now had ten minutes to hold on. Sarkies took the resulting free but although it was on target, Vukovic held it easily.
The final ten minutes was breathtaking stuff as the Reds poured forward moving the ball around and making the Mariners run for everything.
Petrovski came off for Tom Pondeljak as the Coast looked for much needed fresh legs while Sarkies was withdrawn for Pantelis as the Reds looked to expose the wide areas.
Gumprecht was lucky not to be booked after a lunge on Cassio as it was one-way traffic. The Mariners were desperately hanging on.
A Dodd cross deep was latched onto by Pantelis but his header across the goal was caught by Vukovic on 86 minutes.
But Djite was not to be denied after a cross was saved by Vukovic he poked home the second goal for a 2-1 lead.
Immediately the Mariners hit back and Kwasnik could've easily scored after a fluffed shot attempt in the final few minutes.
In time added on, the Coast desperately tried to get back on terms but with 10 men, it was always going to be difficult.
When the final whistle blew, Hindmarsh erupted with relief. No doubt, referee Matthew Breeze was relieved too. If it had stayed at 1-1, his decision would've dominated the headlines after this torrid affair.
What a match! No doubt about it, these two sides will be in the finals after a high quality, skilful and athletic 90 minutes of A-League football. Burns and Djite are the real deal and will be huge stars in years to come, while the Mariners proved they too are the genuine article with a full-blooded, gutsy performance. Matthew Breeze's decision not to allow Djite's goal loomed as hugely controversial. Lucky for him, Djite and Adelaide United were not to be denied. Best game of the season?
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