Mabil a true student of the game

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Playing in front of a record crowd at Coopers Stadium against your club’s fiercest rivals is a daunting prospect. While the coaches of Adelaide United and Melbourne Victory were doing homework on their opposition, youngster Awer Mabil had to fit in homework of his own before the grudge match.

Eighteen-year-old Mabil played more than 75 minutes of Adelaide’s 2-2 draw with Melbourne and on the day the winger was in a class of his own in more ways than one.

Coach Josep Gombau was impressed with Mabil

Upon his introduction off the bench the youngster’s quick feet, audacious trickery and ability to perform the unpredictable provided a headache for Ange Postecoglou’s side. United coach Josep Gombau was thrilled with the winger’s performance and reminded everyone just how youthful a prospect the winger is.

“For me he had an amazing game,” Gombau said.

“It’s funny because this morning I called him and he didn’t answer,” he said.

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“When he called me back I asked him ‘why didn’t you answer the phone?’ he replied ‘Josep I am at school’.

Mabil did find time between classes to return a call to his head coach however the strain on his student life appears to be no barrier for the youngster.

“It is amazing that this morning he was at school and this afternoon he is here playing here and did very well,” Gombau said.

Injury to Daniel Bowles in the 15th minute of the match forced Gombau to reshuffle his side with Zullo moving to left-back, Elrich to right-back while Mabil took his place on the left wing.

Gombau said the 18-year-old was only scheduled to come on for the final minutes of the match, however a suspected broken bone in Bowles’ foot brought forward Mabil’s entry into the fray.

“He (Mabil) is a player that we expect can play 25 minutes but after Bowles’ injury we had to put him in and he did very well,” Gombau said.

The move proved fortunate for United as the injection of Mabil’s pace up front gave United another dimension to their frontline. Mabil’s penchant for backheels and skill on the ball delighted the 16,000 strong home crowd as the Kenyan-born forward made his second consecutive appearance in United’s first-team.

Mabil’s ladder climbing is not entirely unexpected after he was crowned the National Youth League Player of the Season at the Hyundai A-League and Westfield W-League 2013 Awards. His contribution of eight goals (including a hat-trick against Newcastle) to the Reds youth team proved key in his breakout year.

The Victory’s late fightback against the Reds earned them a deserved point from the match however the first-half was shrouded in controversy after a number of refereeing decisions went against the visiting side.

United were awarded a penalty in the 23rd minute after Nathan Coe was adjudged to have brought down Jeronimo Neumann. Replays showed the ‘keeper got his hands to the ball and was unlucky to have been penalised.

Victory coach Ange Postecoglou said his side had been hurt by a few poor officiating decisions which had a huge impact on the final result.

“I don’t think it was a fair result,” Postecoglou said.

“If it wasn’t for the referees’ intervention in the first half, it would have been quite convincing.

“A penalty that never was, a goal that was a clear goal – they’re not small decisions,” he said.

Melbourne hit back in the second half and with goals to Gui Finkler and James Troisi to earn a more-than-deserving point in what could be Postecoglou’s swansong at the helm of the Victory.

Adelaide Starting XI: Galekovic (GK) (C), McKain, Malik, Neumann, Cirio, Lustica, Watson, Bowles, Zullo, Elrich, Ferreira.

Melbourne Starting XI: Coe (GK), Traore, Ansell, Milligan (C), Broxham, Thompson, Pain, Troisi, Nichols, Leijer, Geria.

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