Ivan Karlović admits the feeling is “bittersweet” after ending the Westfield W-League 2018/19 season in positive fashion, but missing out on their ultimate prize.
The Reds’ quest for a maiden Finals appearance remains elusive but under the Head Coach, Adelaide have garnered a great deal of respect from the rest of the competition.
Three successive defeats to begin 2019 dashed their aspirations after starting the campaign so brightly – suffering one defeat in their opening eight matches.
Heading into the Round 14 match against Brisbane Roar at Marden Sports Complex, Adelaide were determined to end the season with a win.
A looping header from Iceland international Gunnhildur Jónsdóttir and a spectacular penalty save in the 87th minute by Sarah Willacy ensured Adelaide notched a 1-0 victory, and a record fifth triumph of the campaign.
Karlović said coming so close to a Finals berth after their win was tough to accept but stated he was extremely proud of the players’ efforts throughout the year.
“It is bittersweet because you’re so close,” Karlović said.
“But at the end of the day I think if anyone said Adelaide United would be finishing the season with 18 points, I think they probably would’ve laughed at you. We didn’t, we believed.
“I know externally there’s probably not a lot of belief but I think we’re starting to make people take notice of what we’re about and where we’re heading.”
He revealed that he has already held discussions with the coaching group about areas for improvement next season.
“You’ve always got one eye to the following year and as the season draws to a close you’re always thinking about what we need to improve on and how we can strengthen the squad,” he said.
“And we’ve certainly spoken about that amongst the coaching staff and look to try to implement that looking into next season.”
Karlović said there were several lessons they could take away from the season.
He suggested one of the biggest adjustments they need to make moving forward was embracing the pressure of going into matches as the favourite, with the onus of collecting all three points.
“There have been different challenges because all of a sudden we’ve become a side that people are expecting to get a result, especially when you’re playing against the sides that are below you on the table,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean they’re easy games because we failed in that area. So it’s something we need to improve on and have the belief and the confidence to take it to anybody.
“Because I think it’s only Sydney FC that’s beaten us in the top four and I think we’ve done exceptionally well against most sides.”
Karlović also praised goalkeeper WIllacy when asked about her impressive season.
Willacy executed a textbook penalty stop with three minutes remaining to preserve Adelaide’s slender one goal buffer, capping off a magnificent year from an individual standpoint.
“The greatest thing about Sarah is her ability to take the mantle in terms of being the lead keeper,” he said.
“This year she’s had pressure from Macca (Sian McLaren) to and in the past she’s always been seen as the reserve keeper with Eliza (Campbell) here.
“So I think she’s taken her game to another level and Sarah was injured for a fair chunk of the WNPL season and missed the last part of the season.
“So for me I think she can be even better because she came into the season a little under done.
“I think if we can get her through the offseason playing consistently I think next season I’m pretty sure you’ll find an even better keeper.”