Cornthwaite’s Corner: How Adelaide’s defence won the game

Adelaide’s willingness and desire to defend won it the game on Sunday afternoon. It’s what the club spoke of in the preseason, and when it’s present, it’s obvious.

Joe Gauci has mentioned it several times over the past two months, and it’s something that’s been a huge focus of the Adelaide United off-season. Players should celebrate good defence like they’ve scored a goal because, at the end of the day, it’s worth just as much at times.

The desperation from the players to block shots was as good as I’ve seen from a United team. Ben Halloran and Joe Gauci will rightly be talked about as man of the match candidates, but Nick Ansell made at least three goal-saving interventions. In the second half, when Western attacker Lachie Wales was through on goal, Alexandar Popović sprinted 50 metres on the odd chance he might be able to get there, which he did. once again preventing an obvious goal-scoring opportunity.

These acts and celebrations in the aftermath bring teams together, and it was a huge part of my time at the Western Sydney Wanderers. Tony Popovic would celebrate good tackles and blocks at training every day, which creates unity in a group. I think it’s been a huge part of Tottenham under Ange Postecoglou this season as well. You always see the players chest bumping and pumping up the crowd after a big chance is denied or saved.

The Reds didn’t have it against Sydney, but they’re a much better side when they do.

I thought Adelaide weathered the storm early in Ballarat, and after the initial 15 minutes, the Reds looked quite comfortable for most of the first half. I thought they looked better going long and more direct, which didn’t invite as much pressure as they have in the past few games.

In the second half, they pressed well in Western’s back third and almost created a few good opportunities from that.

While I am more than happy to praise the defence, they are still giving up too many gilt-edge chances, and there’s still a bit of work to do in the midfield. When they get the press right up the pitch, they look dangerous, but once the opposition beats the first line, they almost always end up on the edge of Adelaide’s box. The lines need to be a little tighter, and the back four needs to be a little more proactive when they can. I can barely remember a time one of Adelaide United’s defenders cut out the pass to a forward. Don’t do anything risky, but you should have cover.

When I was in South Korea, in a back four, one centre back would always be ready to intercept while the other offered support. It’s something I don’t see a lot of in Australian football.

I liked the game of Luka Jovanović; he looks like a real under-the-radar type of goal scorer. I thought Nestory Irankunda made really good decisions, and that was a quality Ben Halloran performance  

It was important for the side to bounce back quickly after the heavy defeat, and I thought it was a professional, no-nonsense away-from-home win.

A Monday game against a solid Macarthur FC outfit in a ground that’ll be close to empty is another tough test. It’s not always easy to pump yourself up for an atmosphere like that.

From what I’ve heard in the media this week, the side really embraced a trip to Ballarat, a place people may complain about travelling to.

If they have a similar mindset this round, the Bulls are in for one hell of a game.

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