Milligan backs underdog Adelaide United for grand final

·2-min read
James Gourley/AAP PHOTOS

Heading into a do-or-die second semi-final on the back foot may spur Adelaide United to produce their best football and send them into a grand final, the Reds' assistant coach Mark Milligan says.

Adelaide fell 2-1 to an aggressive Central Coast Mariners side last Saturday in the first leg of the A-League semi-finals and will need to overcome a one-goal deficit to reach the grand final.

But Milligan says spirits among the relatively young side remain high, buoyed by their positive second-half performance.

"We are at our best with a sense of our back against the wall," he said.

"We also have a lot of young players inexperienced in these situations, and them knowing that you have to go and win and that's the only outcome that is possible, it really does help them along the way.

"At the end of the day, we now have to go to the Central Coast and win a game of football if we want to make a grand final, so the equation for us hasn't changed a great deal with the result."

The Reds have taken key lessons after the side was dominated by the Mariners in the first half.

"They started very well and they're a good side,'' Milligan said.

"We just simply had to match that, and once we did then I think our football started to come through.

"We know that they are very aggressive. They can be quite ball- and man-orientated, and you'd have to be a brave side to break that down.

"There are things we're working on to address that, but generally that was nullified to a degree because we executed well."

Talented Adelaide winger Nestory Irankunda, whose header almost equalised the score last week, could be eyeing a starting position.

"There's always a chance 'Nestor' could start,'' Milligan said.

"Everybody's generally pulled up quite well.

"He pulled off a strong performance from the bench."

The clock is ticking for Adelaide striker Hiroshi Ibusuki, who suffered a flare-up of a calf injury during the second half last week.

"He's had a few calf complaints over the last few weeks," Milligan said.

"We just have to wait and see how he pulls up."

Saturday's winner on goals aggregate will face either Melbourne City or Sydney FC in the June 3 grand final in Sydney.