Cornthwaite’s Corner: Semi Final – First Leg

Robbie Cornthwaite has given his view on the Reds leading into the Semi Final First Leg against Central Coast Mariners.
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A proper finals football performance.

In the most important game of the season so far, Adelaide United showed up. Do I think there were games where they played better this season? I do, but their performance on Friday night was business-like – at the business end – when it mattered.

While there were still moments of breathtaking, free-flowing football, it was combined with a steely resolve we’ve seen very little of this year. The way the team worked hard, hassled, and harassed was everything they weren’t the week before, and it’s something they’ll need again if they want to be playing in the Grand Final.

To think that Jay Barnett couldn’t get a game for a team that finished at the bottom of the ladder is puzzling. Another local kid who just loves playing for the Reds. He’s had very little game time in his young career but also missed the past few weeks with injury. For him to come in for a game as big as Friday’s and boss the contest shows what potential he has and why Carl believes in him so much. Had Adelaide had that extra bit of quality and polish.

United could have put the game to bed in the first half. The opportunity for Ben Halloran to cut one back but he under-hit it, and then that George Blackwood header, both in the opening 45 minutes, are the two that come to mind.

But the Reds have Craig Goodwin.

There were a few questions asked in the media during the week about whether or not Goody would regain his best form for the Finals, and he answered emphatically. His goals both highlighted how calm and composed he is under pressure.

The first had every right to be hit on his left foot, and in that moment, nobody would have been upset if he’d pulled the trigger. The defender was probably thinking the same, but Goodwin didn’t rush. He summed up the situation in a split second and smashed it home with his underrated right boot.

Obviously, his second from the spot was a moment of momentum. Had he missed, Wellington would have had a real boost to push and make something happen, but Craig took that away from them. As he showed on the world’s biggest stage, he has ice in his veins.

I was particularly impressed with Nestory Irankunda’s composure as well. He’s grown so much in a short period of time, and with all the hype and speculation around, it would be easy for him to be distracted, but it almost felt like it focused him. I thought he made a lot of good decisions and looked to provide rather than shoot when it wasn’t on.

Job done; now redemption against the Mariners

For me, this matchup isn’t about revenge. The Reds weren’t hard done by or have anything to feel aggrieved about; they were just easily beaten. It’s about pride and actually playing your best football against Central Coast. Do that, and you can’t have any regrets if it doesn’t fall your way.

Adelaide kept only its fourth clean sheet of the season against the Nix, and the defending was excellent. Where has that been all season?

Nick Ansell, like Barnett, came in with very little preparation. He’s played a handful of games but shown why he was part of some of the best Melbourne Victory sides of the past. Every time he’s played for Carl, he’s been outstanding. Whether he sparked a change, I don’t know, but Adelaide looked desperate, blocking shots and winning tackles. I think, as a collective, the team was embarrassed by the effort they displaced against the Mariners in Round 26.

It’s a two-legged tie, the first at home on Saturday night. Away goals don’t count, so I think Adelaide needs to win at home if they want to go to the big dance this season. Even if the match is high-scoring, it won’t matter if they head to Gosford in front.

While you don’t want to think negatively about the first leg, it must be in the back of your mind that there is another game and you don’t want to be out of the contest after the first one.

All the pressure is on the Mariners, in my opinion. Two big wins over Adelaide during the regular season have them as favourites.

The big question is: what does Carl do with his team? Hiroshi Ibusuki played off the bench last week and Zach Clough will, if I believe what I’m hearing, be back, so what does the boss do?

We know he’s never been afraid to make bold calls, but with two legs to be played, does he hold fire on Clough again and use him as fresh legs the week after? A lot to play out!

One thing we do know is that this will be the last home game of the season. Like you’ve done all year, let’s get Coopers Stadium rocking on Saturday night and leave nothing in the tank.

Let’s go, Reds!

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