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Cornthwaite’s Corner: Round 11

Robbie Cornthwaite has given his view on the Reds win over the Glory and looked ahead to the test the Mariners will pose next in Cornthwaite's Corner.
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The perfect start to 2023!

I mean, no disrespect to Perth, but the Glory at home always seems to come round at the right time for Adelaide. I don’t know what it is, but like earlier in the season, you just felt it was the right game at the right time. After three games without a win, you just knew the team from the west was the ideal matchup to kick start the new year.

I said last week that the performance wasn’t all that important if United took all three points. They did that and then some. They completely dominated the contest. Yes, Perth were happy to sit back and make things difficult, getting 11 men behind the ball, allowing Adelaide to have the lion’s share of possession, especially in the first half. Other than a few moments in the second half, Adelaide restricted the away side to long-range efforts, which rarely troubled Joe Gauci.

Carl would be a little more pleased with numbers and effort it took to get into the box, but I’m sure he’d still be keen to make more of the plentiful opportunities they had in the wide areas.

At 0-0, the Reds found it difficult to break down a set defence. The last four matches have come against teams that are comfortable not having the ball. I don’t think this will be the case this week against the Mariners, but Carl’s boys must find a solution to penetrating set defences. Going more direct from deeper positions and bypassing the midfield worked well towards the end of the first half.

At times there were five or six players in a row across the front line. Players need to rotate and switch positions at times, but it needs to be done at speed. I’ve said it a million times but runs in behind beyond the last line of defence shifts defenders. Maybe Zach Clough goes in behind and Hiroshi Ibusuki comes to feet while a winger makes a run from outside to in. There’s a time and place to stand still and let the game evolve around you but I want to see more movement at speed.

Ibusuki and Clough didn’t see a great deal of it in the opening 45, but when they did, they looked dangerous, and it looks as though their relationship is starting to grow.

In fact, for all of Adelaide’s good work and shifting of the ball, it was a long direct pass that led to Lachlan Barr’s opener. I asked for the players to be the hungrier side, and the team that wanted it more would win. Barr displayed this to a tee when he attacked the ball while four Perth players waited for it to drop. He deserved his first Isuzu UTE A-League goal purely for his desire.

The game opened in the second half, which, in my opinion, suits the Reds. Everyone started to find space, and if not for a little more smarts, they would have scored again.

Not everyone can score a goal, and this team must get in the habit of making sacrificial runs. The second goal was a prime example. Ibusuki made a lung-busting run across the near post, knowing he would never get the ball. It cleared the path for the returning Ben Halloran to tap home a delightfully weighted cross from Clough, unmarked, to seal the win.

One thing I noticed that was an area of concern was how vulnerable Alexander Popović looked with the ball at his feet. He managed to snuff out the danger, but his body positioning was all wrong. Several times a straight ball in the second half had him looking at sea. He must be side-on and ready to drop when there’s time on the ball. When he turns to run, he completely loses sight of the ball and needs to be aware of where the player and ball are at all times. He’s doing remarkably well for a young player, just something to work on and I’m sure the coaching staff has taken note of it.

Panashe Madanha was flawless. For a young player to come in and make his starting debut at any time is no easy feat, but to do it in a position he’s never played before is something special. He looked tired around the 60 minute mark but found his second wind and made several probing runs late on, nearly setting up Isaías for a wonder goal. He’s a winger by trade, but I’d be keen to see him at fullback again. Often, fullbacks are converted wingers and he looked the part in defence.

This week, the team travels to take on one of the most dangerous teams in the league. Central Coast, like Adelaide, continue to punch above their weight year after year and it’s hard not to like the team from Gosford. Nick Montgomery has done an outstanding job with this young team. No more evident than his handling and nurturing of Garang Kuol over the last 18 months. He won’t be there this weekend, but they still have plenty of weapons.

Cult figure Jason Cummings is fresh off a double and has shown no signs of slowing down since his return from the World Cup. He’s hungry for more international football and is clearly enjoying his time in the A-Leagues. He’s got all the tricks in the book and the ability to stretch defences. Something Barr and Popović will need to be weary of, particularly if Mariners watched the latter struggle facing his own goal on Monday night.

Against a young Mariners defence, the experienced Adelaide midfield needs to control the match with and without the ball. Whoever partners Iasías in the middle needs to keep the ball but also be quick to close the supply to Marco Túlio and Cummings.

It’s only early in the season, but whoever wins this game will grow in confidence and start believing they can finish inside the top two this season.

This has the makings of one of the games of the season. Expect goals.

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