Marcelo Carrusca scored twice in the first half and Adelaide United held on for a 2-1 win against Melbourne Heart at Epping Soccer Stadium just north of Melbourne. David Williams pulled one back for Heart in the second half but it was not enough to avoid defeat.
Sergio Cirio, one of Josep Gombau's two Spanish signings, drew a penalty when he was fouled in the box by Jason Hoffman midway through the first half. Carrusca scored from the spot for an early Adelaide lead after 26 minutes. Just seven minutes later, Cirio played Carrusca through, after cutting in from the left, leaving the second year Adelaide attacker a one-touch shot that bent into the top corner in the 33rd minute.
With neither Harry Kewell nor Michael Mifsud in the line-up, John Aloisi had to rely on hold-over attackers from last season. Williams made the most of his start by poking in a goal on 64 minutes after Eugene Galekovic saved his first, headed attempt. Williams nearly equalized four minutes later but tipped his shot wide after a nice through ball from Heart's youth player, Marcus Schroen.
In losing at Epping, Heart finish the pre-season without a win against A-League competition. But given the injuries and squad rotation to date, it could be well argued that a regular, first choice Heart side has not yet been seen. That said, the Melbourne Derby to open the season is now just two weeks away. Aloisi will get one more chance to get players a run out with a final pre-season friendly against a Peninsula XI on Sunday September 29.
For Adelaide, injury blows have defined the offseason almost as much as the change to new manager Gombau. Michael Zullo left Friday's game with a knee injury, leaving yet another question for the Spanish manager to answer. But on the whole, the additions of Cirio and Steven Lusitca have strengthened the Reds and should give them a chance to compete from Round 1 with two home games to open the season.
Adelaide conclude their pre-season with a behind-closed-doors match with Melbourne Victory at AAMI Park on Thursday October 3.
UPDATE - Highlights of Friday's match thanks to mfootball.com.au:
AU Carrusca (pen) 26'
AU Carrusca (Cirio) 33'
MH Williams 64'
Melbourne Heart: Redmayne; Behich, Kisnorbo, Gerhardt (Vrankovic 73'); Hoffman, Murdocca, Schroen, Retre (Ramsay 46'); Mebrahtu (Migliorini 46'), Williams, Dugandzic
Unused subs: Velaphi, Mitchinson, Walker
Adelaide United: Galekovic; Boogaard, McKain, Bowles, Zullo (Elsey 67'); Carrusca (Barker-Daish), Lustica, Ferreira, Isaias; McGrath (Malik 61'), Cirio (Elrich 46')
Unused subs: Izzo