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Adelaide United's FFA Cup Final win down to fearlessness and maturity

ADELAIDE -- How does a game like that happen? Adelaide United didn't just defeat Melbourne City in the FFA Cup Final, Adelaide United crushed Melbourne City.

The 4-0 scoreline says as much. Yet as much as Adelaide grew in stature over the course of 90 wild minutes at Hindmarsh Stadium, City capitulated in a way rarely seen in cup finals.

Such a massive momentum swing in favour of Adelaide highlighted it was mental, just as much as tactical or physical.

Al Hassan Toure's opening goal might have been the defining moment of the game, but fear and maturity were the two key attributes of Wednesday night's final. With this in context, something the 19-year-old Mark Viduka medallist said post-match seemed deeply relevant.

"When my Dad trained me in the backyard, he always said to me never be afraid," Toure explained.

"Always take risks in the game, and that is what makes the best players -- to try something new, to try and improvise in situations.

"In the last game I saw him [City keeper Dean Bouzanis] sneaking, when Michael Maria had a shot. Over the past three days, I was thinking if I get that opportunity, I'm going to go near post. It's fortunate that it worked."

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When the game was there to be won -- especially after picking up no points out of a possible six to start the A-League season -- Adelaide showed character and the teenager was at the forefront in this sense. Meanwhile, Erick Mombaerts and his City side showed very little.

Mistakes can tend to decide matches like these, and Bouzanis not trusting his defence to cover the potential cross in from Toure in the 25th minute made for a grave one.

There were highly disparate responses to that goal, however. Little details help paint this picture.

Jamie Maclaren's chance in the sixth minute was all City had for the better amount of possession in the opening exchanges. Harrison Delbridge doing his best Franz Beckenbauer impersonation in the 33rd minute, dribbling up the pitch and shooting, underlined that lack of overall substance.

Following Toure's improvised opener, the hosts started to come out with the ball in the majority of duels, chasing and running off the ball more assertively. The disparity in energy was visible and the crowd at Hindmarsh responded, solidifying the stadium's reputation as one of the best places to watch football in Australia, if not the best.

Delbridge and Curtis Good were left with a lot of mopping up to do in the centre of the City defence, and moments after failing to finish off an incisive team move, Ben Halloran's goal to make it 2-0 in the 49th minute could not have been more indicative.

Josh Brillante becomes lost higher up the pitch and allows the pass through to Toure. The ball spills out before Toure turns and gets clear of Delbridge, but despite being behind play at this point, Brillante was not eliminated from it.

From Toure's pass out to Riley McGree, who very much grew into the game alongside Nikola Mileusnic, Halloran begins to sprint from inside his own half. Brillante then doesn't chase, leaving Halloran by himself to finish past Bouzanis and settle the match, if it wasn't already game over by that point.

As much as Adelaide showed ruthlessness and determination to take advantage, City collapsed -- from Brillante's decision not to chase back with the game in the balance, to Mombaerts then bringing on Richard Windbichler instead of Ramy Najjarine or Denis Genreau, to McGree claiming the ball the way he did from Brillante before Mileusnic made it 3-0 in the 60th minute, to the fake-tough lashing out from City captain Scott Jamieson at 4-0 down.

Character from City was absent and on the pitch, the Adelaide players sensed it.

Al Hassan Toure
Al Hassan Toure was awarded the Mark Viduka medal for his match-winning performance in Wednesday's FFA Cup final.

"Of course, City had a game plan," McGree said post-match. "But we were able to counteract that and we knew if we scored one, we'd be able to get another one and another one. It showed out there that we had good heart and good fight."

It was a sentiment echoed by Ryan Strain, who assisted Toure for the opener.

"I thought in the first 15 minutes, City were on top. They were keeping the ball and we were trying to get them on the counter," he said.

"But we thought, if we get a goal, they're going to be rattled with the help of the crowd."

So it happened. However, City coach Mombaerts was measured in his response.

"I expect that our players are angry about this and I expect a good reaction. I expect also the players will recover well," he said.

"This is the first time it's happened, so I am not worried. I expect our players understand what's happened today and now we will analyse and have a good reaction for the next game. I expect my players [to be] competitors. If you are a great competitor, you react."

The reaction from City in the coming matches will unearth a great deal about the team's collective temperament but, for one night at least, everything went wrong for them in a spectacular way. How they responded as it all unravelled does raise the question of leadership in the team.

On the other hand for Adelaide -- a team needing to emerge from the shadow of Isaias in both tactical and interpersonal senses -- it was a mature performance and recognition of the occasion. Given Adelaide's path to the final, Wednesday night was an ideal punctuation mark.

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