Cahill stunner leaves Adelaide on brink of wooden spoon
REIGNING champion Adelaide United's wooden spoon fate is in its own hands.
Adelaide has one more round to help stave off a major humiliation after a disastrous title defending campaign ended on a sour note during its last A-League match on the road this season on Friday night against Melbourne City.
The Reds were far from disgraced but it took a veteran to separate the sides.
Socceroos legendary striker Tim Cahill, 37, scored his ninth goal for City from a set piece nodding the ball home after indecision inside the Reds box when marking the best head in the A-League in the 36th minute.
Cahill got to the near post to loop the ball to where the other upright was unguarded to give City a deserved lead as Adelaide conceded its first goal of the season from a corner.
Until that point Adelaide had weathered the storm as City pressed high and tried to strangle the champion before City beat United 1-0 in unconvincing fashion at AAMI Park.
Iacopa La Rocca's running battle with City captain Bruno Fornaroli saw the Uruguayan use gamesmanship in an effort to unsettle the Italian's return to the starting XI for the first time since February.
La Rocca was booked in the 34th minute for getting in the face of Fornaroli after a duel before Isaias was also cautioned just before the break after he got involved when Fornaroli tangled with the Italian again.
But Tarek Elrich being stretchered off the park with what looked like a serious left knee injury after he fell to the turf heavily during a battle with former Reds defender Osama Malik was heartbreaking.
The injury looks likely to keep Elrich, 30, away from travelling to South Korea on Saturday to face Jeju United in an AFC Champions League clash on Tuesday night.
Club officials initially feared Elrich had ruptured an anterior cruciate ligament with the defender having scans in a Melbourne hospital.
The video assistant referee which was making its worldwide debut for a first class match got a workout in the 75th minute when City's Neil Kilkenny's elbow made contact with the ball inside the box but despite the Reds claims for a penalty, referee Kris Griffiths-Jones didn't flinch.
United's Nikola Mileusnic made good room and had a load of options to choose from in the 82nd minute but he decided to have a crack from 25m only to watch the ball land in the stands.
With Adelaide sitting ninth before bottom-placed Central Coast hosts Newcastle Jets on Sunday, a win to the Mariners will see the Jets plummet to bottom on equal points with United before the Reds host Western Sydney on Easter Saturday.