Adelaide United has a new hero in 20 year-old shot stopper Joe Gauci, who produced a stunning, point-blank save in the 89th minute to deny Sydney FC a late equaliser on Sunday.
Reds coach Carl Veart hailed the match-winning save by Gauci who was playing in just his third game, ensuring the home side held on for a 1-0 victory.
With Adelaide having broken the deadlock on 76 minutes thanks to a Craig Goodwin spot kick, Kosta Barbarouses whipped in a cross for Patrick Wood to header from five metres, only for Gauci to pull off a brilliant reflex stop.
“It was fantastic, wasn’t it? All night, he’s had a great game,” Veart said.
“That save was great – I don’t think he had to make a save up until that point so for a young keeper to keep that focus and keep that concentration and to pull a save out like that is just tremendous.”
Veart was delighted with his young keeper, who he worked with as a 15 year-old.
After debuting in South Australia’s NPL with West Torrens Birkalla, Gauci joined Central Coast Mariners for the 2018/19 campaign.
He returned to the local competition with Adelaide City, then signed a scholarship contract with Melbourne City, before joining Adelaide United ahead of the current season.
“He’s worked hard to get to where he is now,” Veart said.
“And that’s so pleasing, especially when I’ve had contact with these young boys, to see how much work they’ve put in and then now to start seeing the rewards.
“I don’t think you could ask any more as a coach.”
The Reds’ win was soured by a serious knee injury to Javi Lopez, who was forced off the field after a hard tackle from Luke Brattan early in the match.
“Javi has done his MCL,” said Veart.
“We’re not sure how bad it will be but he’s definitely done the MCL.
“After he got up and as soon as he ran, he knew he was gone.”
Veart said the injury was potentially season-ending but was hopeful it wasn’t as bad as suspected.
“Hopefully it can be five to six weeks. Hopefully. The best scenario I would say.”
Sydney coach Steve Corica felt the contest was fairly even, with his side having the better of the chances over the course of the 90 minutes.
But it was ultimately decided by a dubious penalty decision.
“No – it shouldn’t have been a pen,” he said.
“For a big boy he went down very easily. During the game he didn’t go down that easily but in the box he seemed to go down a bit quicker than normal.
“I don’t think it was a pen, that’s my opinion. I think they got it wrong.”