Cornthwaite’s Corner: Semi Final – Second Leg

Robbie Cornthwaite has given his view on the Reds leading into the Semi Final Second Leg against Central Coast Mariners.

This team has answered many questions and critics this season. Can they do it again? Or will their Semi Final hoodoo continue?

The Reds couldn’t have asked for a better start on Saturday night in front of a packed Coopers Stadium. There was electricity in the air, and I actually said to the friends I was sitting with that I wouldn’t be surprised if United scored in the first five minutes. But from there, Central Coast absolutely owned the first half.

You can’t help but feel the Mariners are peaking at just the right time. Adelaide has had a tremendous season and is still well and truly in the contest, but I’m not sure I’ve seen Nick Montgomery’s men play better than that this season.

Their front four were giving Adelaide’s midfield and defence the run around. Their mobility and ability to find space in between the lines killed the Reds. There wasn’t nearly enough pressure on the ball, and the likes of Marco Tulio and Sam Silvera were able to get on the back of Isaías and pick off the Reds defenders. The centre backs didn’t know whether to stay or go, allowing the attackers to turn and slip in forward runners with ease.

Carl Veart spoke in the buildup about the one-on-one battles and how the Mariners make you play accountable football. Well, Adelaide was once again very poor in the one-on-one duels.

If players think rushing in and trying to win the ball is defending, then Adelaide has big problems. Defending is a mindset. You have to want to defend, and I didn’t see that from many in the first half. You don’t have to try to win the ball every time. The cheap fouls and the way Central Coast was able to go past players with ease were the reasons the home side were second-best in the first half.

There’s no excuse for that type of defending. It’s so lazy! Move your feet and make them beat you, or make them play the ball back away from goal. The best defenders in the world barely make a tackle. They intercept and force the players wide and away from danger.

In the second half, Adelaide pressed a lot higher, not allowing the Mariners to play out, and forced Danny Vukovic to play the ball over the press, giving Adelaide a chance to win the individual duel. They had far more success doing this, and we were able to get a hold of the game. That said, there were still far too many times in a one-on-one situation that Adelaide were showed up, easily knocked off the ball, and exposed for a lack of pace and awareness.

I thought a lot of the senior players were the most guilty, and some need to pull their socks up on Saturday night in the second leg.

Nestory Irankunda and Craig Goodwin were absolutely exceptional in the second half. They produced a couple of moments of pure brilliance. The pin-point cross from Goodwin and the header from Nestor could have easily led to an equaliser.

Injuries will obviously force Carl to make a change or two, so I’m interested to see if he takes the ultimate gamble and start Nestor. Being behind might actually suit Adelaide more, freeing them up to go for it.

I know this has probably all sounded negative, but it’s because it’s so frustrating. I truly believe Adelaide is more than capable of turning this around. In fact, anything is possible with this team. Goals galore are fine if you win. But give me some proper defending and effort.

Adelaide has lost in the Semi Finals in three of the past four seasons. Give the fans a Grand Final, but don’t do it for them; do it for yourselves.

Good luck.

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