A Jeronimo Neumann brace and an Iain Ramsay strike were enough to deny Perth Glory victory despite late goals from Shane Smeltz and Steve McGarry
|By CHRISTIAN MAMMONE
Argentine forward Jeronimo Neumann struck a brace as Adelaide United defeated Perth Glory 3-2 to close the gap on top spot in the A-League on Friday.
Jeronimo started on bench for the hosts at Hindmarsh Stadium but was called into action with barely a minute on the clock after striker Bruce Djite suffered a groin injury.
The substitution was a blessing in disguise for Adelaide who took the lead on 28 minutes courtesy of the 26-year-old.
The former Barnsley man added a second nine minutes later with a clever finish before winger Iain Ramsay iced the game with a powerful half-volley immediately after half-time.
Perth hitman Shane Smeltz scored a penalty as the final whistle loomed before Steve McGarry ensured a tense finish in an otherwise comfortable game for the Reds with a neat strike deep in added time.
Adelaide first threatened in the eighth minute when Glory defender Seb van den Brink gifted Jeronimo with a golden opportunity to open the scoring.
A sloppy pass was chopped off and intercepted by Jeronimo, but the speedy forward could only muster a tame shot which Perth goalkeeper Danny Vukovic smothered.
Deafening silence lingered at Hindmarsh following Adelaide's Red Army supporters group's decision to protest the security at the ground, which they had accused of being overly aggressive.
But that changed on 12 minutes when the Red Army brought an end to their silent remonstration and erupted in full voice.
The boisterous crowd breathed fire into Adelaide who almost broke the deadlock following Ramsay's dangerous set-piece.
The midfielder's free-kick created mayhem and a game of pinball in Perth's area as Jeronimo, Dario Vidosic and Evan Kostopoulos tried in vain to force the ball home.
Perth should have taken the lead when McGarry found himself completely unmarked at the back post after Reds captain Eugene Galekovic misjudged a cross, but the Scotsman fired his header over the bar.
The miss haunted the Glory in the 28th minute when Jeronimo tapped in his first of the night.
The impressive Antony Golec hit a long ball from the back which caused a mix-up between Perth left-back Scott Jamieson and Vukovic.
The pair met indecisively halfway as Jamieson attempted to clear only to slice the clearance, which spun past Vukovic and into the path of Jeronimo, who knocked the ball into an unguarded net.
The visitors hit back instantly through McGarry, but the veteran midfielder was denied by the left upright after a thunderous strike from distance.
The ball cannoned back to Smeltz who attempted to calmly slot it in with Galekovic down but his shot was blocked by a timely intervention from Golec.
Perth had a third bite of the cherry when the ball fell to Liam Miller but he was also denied, this time by Galekovic who had pounced back to his feet to make a comfortable stop.
Adelaide doubled their advantage in the 37th minute through Jeronimo once more.
Vidosic sent the speedy attacker clear down the left wing with a delightful through ball which Jeronimo did well to tuck past Vukovic who failed to tighten the angle.
The home side extended their lead seconds after the break when Ramsay roofed in a third following Vidosic's corner.
Smeltz almost pulled one back for his side in the 66th minute but Galekovic made an outstanding fingertip save to tip the shot over.
With time winding down, talented 17-year-old winger Awer Mabil was handed his A-League debut just days after signing a senior contract with the Reds.
Smeltz eventually found the net for the visitors with a minute remaining when he converted a spot-kick.
The goal gave Perth hope as they struck a second via McGarry's angled finish, but it was all they could produce as Adelaide hung on for victory.