Cornthwaite’s Corner: Round 23

Robbie Cornthwaite has given his view on the Reds leading into Round 23.
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Good Friday, Coopers Stadium, Sydney FC, with the Reds eyeing off Melbourne City and the top spot.

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What a win it was against the Wanderers! You could see how badly Western Sydney wanted that win, and when things didn’t go their way, they lost their cool. If you win the battle, you’ll win the war.

That’s where I thought United would win that game. They were the better team inside both penalty areas for most of it. The first half an hour was quite average, I thought. I was expecting a blockbuster, and while it eventually delivered, it got off to a slow start.

The home side managed to carve out several promising openings, but a combination of poor finishing and some brilliant last-ditch defending saw the score remain locked at 0-0.

Last season, the Wanderers were one of the worst teams in the league at conceding from set pieces, but this year they’ve been one of the best. Well, didn’t last season’s Western Sydney show up on Friday night? Allowing Ben Warland that much space on the edge of the six-yard box is criminal. I always felt like my goals came in clusters, and isn’t that the case for Ben? Carl said he hadn’t scored before coming home to Adelaide; I’m not sure if that’s the case, but he knows how to find the back of the net now.

I’m always in a bit of a pickle when I write Cornthwaite’s Corner. On one hand, if I look at this team and its recent form with the Red Tide, it’s hard to fault them. They play one of the most exciting, attacking, high-energy brands of football in the league, and I absolutely love it. Every fan is riding high now, and they’re just incredible to watch. There’s no stopping them right now.

The other part of me can’t ignore the 19 goals conceded in 11 games. They now have the third-worst defence in the league. Does it matter? If they go on to lose and get knocked out in the finals, you could argue the defence isn’t good enough to win a championship. But this team only knows one way. It might all crash and burn, but you could change the way the team plays, try to shut up shop, and still lose. Why not go down swinging? Carl only knows one way, and the Reds will win or lose, playing his way.

I’m positive he’d want to tighten things up and not have to rely on scoring three goals a game to win. The finer details and individual decision-making are the areas to focus on. That’s where Adelaide can find the greatest improvement in becoming more resolute, in my opinion.

Obviously, I absolutely loved the tussle at the end of the game. Nestory Irankunda doesn’t want to make what he did a habit, but Marcelo’s reaction was so far over the top, born out of frustration, as you’d think. It’s not the first time he’s pulled out that style of headlock either.

For me, the reaction from Lochie Barr was sensational. I know as a voice in the game I should say we don’t want that kind of reaction or unnecessary violence, but from where I was sitting, Barr did nothing wrong. He didn’t ease a hand, lean in with the head, or smash into anyone. He let everyone in the league know Adelaide is a unit, and he’s not going to let a 35-year-old pick on his 17-year-old teammate. At the end of the day, Lochie was kind of responsible for getting the Wanderers skipper sent off. Ask any player: if you can get under the skin or make an opponent lose his cool and get a red card, then bonus.

I’m sure Carl loved it.

The Sky Blues come to Adelaide on Friday with three of the Adelaide’s last four games at home.

They are going to be desperate. That probably makes them two things: dangerous and unpredictable.

When teams and players know that every moment matters, they do things out of the ordinary, and it could work both ways for Adelaide.

They know they need to win to keep the chasing pack at bay. They still have several quality players, especially in attack. Robert Mak is in fantastic form, scoring two goals in last week’s 3-3 draw with Western United. That on the back of scoring for Slovakia during the international break, he’s one to be wary of.

Unfortunately for the visitors, their weakness plays perfectly into Adelaide’s strength. Sydney has been poor at the back all season, and I can’t see them stopping the Reds at home. Western United opted for speed upfront against a slow Sydney defence; Adelaide could do the same.

Hiroshi got himself on the scoresheet against Wanderers, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Luka Jovanović back in the starting line-up for this game.

It’s hard to bet against Adelaide at the moment, so like most others, I’m expecting more of the same. A win for the home team with plenty of goals.

Melbourne City, Adelaide’s coming for you!

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