Adelaide United will be determined to bounce back against the Liberty A-League’s newest side in Wellington Phoenix on Friday night at Coopers Stadium.
Sitting fourth on the table, despite a 1-0 loss to Melbourne City last weekend, the Reds know the importance of three points in order keep their finals aspirations on track.
Adelaide moved to a .500 team after its first home setback of season, having won three games and lost three games after six matches.
But they have a chance to redeem themselves at the same venue against a Phoenix outfit that is still searching for its maiden victory and situated at the bottom of the table.
After drawing on the opening round of the campaign, the New Zealand side have lost every game since, though have continued to show flashes of their potential.
Consequently, the Reds cannot afford to underestimate their opponents and let complacency creep in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.
Adrian Stenta is back on the touchline after recovering from COVID-19, while Shadeene Evans has overcome a hip complaint. Meleri Mullan remains on the sidelines with a knee injury.
What the expert says
Campbell Johnson: Adelaide United – Adelaide performed really admirably against great opposition last week. Unfortunately, a dominant first half was unable to bear fruit and allowed Melbourne City to build into the game and take control of the second stanza eventually taking the winner through Rhianna Pollicina. Emily Condon had a great chance to square the ledger but was unable to do so. The Reds will most likely line up in a 4-2-1-3 operating with a double pivot in midfield and a creative playmaker just ahead of them. They’ll also look to use the full width of the pitch with two wingers flanking a central striking option. They’ll press high and relentlessly to force errors out of a young Wellington Phoenix side. United pressed really well as a unit against Melbourne City and were able to put their young defenders under immense pressure at times. It will be interesting to see if Meleri Mullen and Shadeene Evans come back into the squad, I would think the latter is more likely to return.
Wellington Phoenix – Gemma Lewis has done a sensational job in a really tough position. Not many managers, men or women can say they have started a program from scratch in a pandemic with limited resources. Added to that, the New Zealand based team have been stationed out of Wollongong for the past year or so making the situation with the Phoenix even more uncertain. Despite this, the Phoenix have shown glimpses of quality and promise, leading the Brisbane Roar by two goals after the 24th-minute mark. However, their lack of experience and composure allowed the Roar to get back into the game and eventually Brisbane taking all three points.
One to watch
Campbell Johnson: Paige Hayward has been working tirelessly throughout the season but Nanako Sasaki has really impressed me after coming up through the WNPL SA. She played a really solid game at the base of midfield and played some really nice balls over the top towards Chelsie Dawber. She’s certainly one to watch not only in this week’s games but also for the rest of the season.
Campbell Johnson: The major battle for me will be Chelsie Dawber v Lily Alfeld. Dawber currently leads the scoring for Adelaide and showed glimpses of promise throughout the Melbourne City game. Her speed and size will prove a struggle for the Wellington Phoenix Number one. Lily Alfeld has been a shining light for the Wellington Phoenix and has truly kept them in many of their games this season. The former Perth Glory goalkeeper has made the most saves of any shot-stopper in the Liberty A-League Women’s with 34 with 24 saves inside the box. Only time will tell if Chelsie Dawber and the Adelaide attack can break through the Wellington defence.
One change you’d like to see
Campbell Johnson: I’d like to see Dylan Holmes get on the ball more and drive forward. Similarly, I’d like to see the United fullbacks push forward and provide more attacking output especially against the bottom-placed team in the Wellington Phoenix.
Campbell Johnson: Adelaide United 3-1 Wellington Phoenix.
I think this match-up is a great opportunity for Adelaide United to get back to winning ways after a tough loss against Melbourne City. A win would go a long way to solidifying the Reds place in the top four. I think Adelaide will put the foot on the gas and take no prisoners against Wellington Phoenix. From the Phoenix, expect a back to the wall approach from the new side in the league. The Phoenix will be looking to pick up any points they can at this stage in the competition. I think Adelaide United will win three goals to one.
Friday, 21 January vs Wellington Phoenix
Liberty A-League 2021/22 – Matchweek 8
Kick-off 6.05pm ACDT
Venue: Coopers Stadium