Sydney FC goalkeeper Thomas Heward-Belle made a brilliant late penalty save to ensure a 2-1 win over Adelaide United in a dramatic Isuzu UTE A-League clash at Coopers Stadium.
Heward-Belle picked the right way to move and successfully parried the penalty attempt by Adelaide’s Japanese striker Hiro Ibusuki in the 88th minute, while the Reds were denied a second penalty in stoppage time despite VAR intervention.
Sydney dominated Adelaide from the outset, pressing the Reds high up the park and causing the home side to turn the ball over cheaply on Friday.
The visitors’ pressure and intensity was rewarded early with Elvis Kamsoba opening the scoring in the 10th minute.
The tricky attacker bamboozled Adelaide’s defence with a series of stepovers, before cutting inside and firing past Lachlan Barr and Michael Jakobsen, beating keeper Joe Gauci at the near post.
Adelaide struggled to play out of defence with Sydney expertly cutting out the passing channels and closing off the Reds outlets.
But, against the run of play, Adelaide equalised in the 32nd minute through captain Stefan Mauk.
Craig Goodwin whipped in a cross for Ibusuki but the striker’s header was brilliantly kept out by Heward-Belle, only for Mauk to volley home the rebound.
The Reds tested Howard-Belle twice more before the break, the Sydney shotstopper tipping Brook’s curling effort around the post before denying Goodwin from close range just before half-time.
Sydney started the second half as they began the match and within a minute of the restart Gauci was called into action when Mustafa Amini tried his luck from long range.
Milos Ninkovic slipped Kamsoba through on the hour but he dragged his shot wide.
Adelaide struggled to fashion any clear opportunities while Sydney unloaded their bench for the final half hour, introducing Adam Le Fondre, Bobo and Max Burgess.
It was Bobo and Burgess who combined for Sydney’s second.
Burgess ghosted in behind the Reds’ defence and was one-on-one with Gauci but the shot stopper did well to thwart the attack.
From the resultant passage, Paulo Retre released Burgess again and his cut back from the left found Bobo who was storming through the penalty area to tap into the net.
The Sky Blues continued to dominate but in the 88th minute, against the run of play, Adelaide had the perfect chance to equalise when Mohamed Toure was brought down in the area.
Ibusuki stepped up to take the spot-kick but it was brilliantly saved by Heward-Belle.
In dramatic scenes, the Reds were denied a second penalty in stoppage time for a foul on Ibusuki, despite VAR calling referee Adam Kersey over to view the replay.