Tommy haunts Reds again

Tom Pondeljak has returned to haunt Adelaide United once again after scoring one of the fastest goals in Hyundai A-League history during Saturday night’s 2-0 win at Etihad Stadium.

Tom Pondeljak has returned to haunt Adelaide United once again after scoring one of the fastest goals in Hyundai A-League history during Saturday night’s 2-0 win at Etihad Stadium.

Pondeljak, who scored the only goal in Melbourne’s 1-0 grand final win over Adelaide last season, scored after just 22 seconds in a game which highlighted the contrasting paths these two clubs have taken since the Victory clinched their second championship last season.

While Melbourne’s second successive win at home – which was sealed by an injury-time penalty from skipper Kevin Muscat – sees the Victory return to the top of the ladder, the loss has all but ended Adelaide’s slim finals hopes and has left the Reds anchored to the bottom of the ladder.

Adelaide arrived at Etihad Stadium knowing they had won just one of their past 16 matches against Melbourne – including losing the last eight in succession – as well as winning just one of their last 12 matches this season and any doubts about the size of the task confronting the Reds was soon put into perspective as Melbourne got off to the best possible start.

As usual the architect was Costa Rican playmaker Carlos Hernandez whose superb pass put Archie Thompson into space down the left hand side.

Thompson then produced a perfect cross which Pondeljak met at the far post.

And while Adelaide goalkeeper Eugen Galekovic saved Pondeljak’s first effort he was helpless as the ball landed back in the path of the Victory veteran as Pondeljak smashed home the rebound.

The goal sent yet another 20,000 plus home crowd for Melbourne into a frenzy as Victory fans chanted to their Adelaide rivals “That’s why we’re champions.”

Pondeljak’s goal was one of the fastest from the kick-off in A-League history but not the fastest of all time with that record still belonging to Adelaide’s Louis Brain who scored after just ten seconds against Melbourne in 2005/06.

After the shock of conceding such an early goal, Adelaide seemed prepared to stop Melbourne by any measure possible and the next 20 minutes saw numerous stoppages due to fouls as Adelaide’s Adam Hughes picked up a yellow card for a blatant foul on Thompson.

With Thompson and Hernandez at the heart of every Melbourne attack, Victory had no shortage of chances to extend their lead in the first half as Robbie Kruse shot over in the 23rd minute after being played in by a perfect pass from Hernandez while Kruse turned provider two minutes later when his long, cross-field pass set up Thompson but he shot straight at Galekovic.

Adelaide chances were few and far between as skipper Travis Dodd blasted well over when in space in the 32nd minute while shortly after Victory defender Adrian Leijer did well to put his body between Lloyd Owusu and the ball with the Adelaide striker in a dangerous position.

The half ended with Victory keeper Mitch Langerak making a good diving save from Hughes as skipper Kevin Muscat was quick to clear the danger.

Melbourne continued to look the more dangerous side in the second half as Kruse appeared to have claims for a penalty in the 55th minute before blasting wide when one-on-one with the keeper in the 60th minute.

Nick Ward then came desperately close with a header in the 66th minute following a Leigh Broxham corner but Melbourne’s failure to get the second goal their good link-up play deserved almost came back to haunt them as Adelaide slowly gained belief.

Hughes should have done better when through on goal in the 70th minute but Langerak was equal to the challenge.

That was as close as Adelaide came to an equaliser as Melbourne sealed victory when Thompson was bought down in the box in injury-time with Muscat keeping his cool from the spot to score his third goal in three games.

The win moves Melbourne above Gold Coast on goal difference at the top of the table.

And while Sydney FC can displace Melbourne at the top by beating Newcastle on Sunday, the Victory still has a game in hand and can take outright leadership of the table by beating Wellington in their midweek clash at Etihad Stadium on Tuesday night.

Melbourne Victory: 2 (Pondeljak 1, Muscat 90)
Adelaide United: 0
Crowd: 20,361 at Etihad Stadium