Adelaide United moved a step closer to securing a maiden Liberty A-League finals appearance with a dominant 4-1 win over Wellington Phoenix in Wollongong on Friday.
The match, postponed by a day due to inclement weather, saw the Reds take the lead through Chelsie Dawber inside five minutes.
After the Phoenix equalised, Adelaide fortuitously took the lead via an own goal from a back pass which went beyond the ‘keeper, before a rampant start to the second stanza yielded two more goals.
Fiona Worts made it 3-1 before Dawber completed her brace as the pair became the first Reds players to score 10 goals in a single season.
WHAT WENT RIGHT. WHAT WENT WRONG.
What went right: Fast starts in each half
Adelaide made blistering starts to begin each half against Wellington and were cognisant of trying to impose themselves on the contest and set the tone. This approach certainly was more effective after half-time with Adelaide generating a barrage of pressure prior to Fiona Worts creating a two-goal buffer. Minutes later, the result was put beyond doubt via Chelsie Dawber’s finish. The energy it would have taken to mentally prepare for a game for the second day in a row – and third away match in a week – is obviously not ideal. But United showed no real signs of fatigue or lack of concentration and were largely untroubled over the course of the entire 90 minutes.
What went right: Dawber and Worts continue scorching form
No player in Adelaide United’s Liberty A-League history had ever reached double figures in a single season. That changed when two players achieved the milestone on the same day at WIN Stadium. Fiona Worts became the first player to reach 10 goals after an incisive finish, and Chelsie Dawber was not far behind as her second of the afternoon accomplished the feat. You don’t have to be a mathematician to figure out that translates to 20 goals between them – a phenomenal return and the duo complement each other brilliantly. It further means there is currently a three-way tie in the Golden Boot race alongside Melbourne City’s Hannah Wilkinson. Certainly an intriguing subplot awaits heading into the final two rounds of the competition.
What went wrong: Conceded a sloppy goal
The Reds conceded 20 minutes later after failing to clear their lines. Isabel Hodgson was unable to deal with the bouncing cross which landed awkwardly in front of her. The rare mistake was punished by Grace Jale in clinical fashion. However, Hodgson, who handed the captaincy to Dylan Holmes in her 50th appearance, was otherwise resolute – winning a number of challenges. A slice of luck restored their lead, but they demonstrated their superiority with a wonderful second-half performance.
What went right: Most successful season ever
Statistically, this is the Reds’ most successful season. Their record of 22 points attained last year has been eclipsed this year with an eighth victory of the campaign to move to 24 points and provisionally equal second on the table. While reaching finals is the primary objective, Adelaide has already improved on last season and it is a testament of the growth this side has showed under Adrian Stenta. The result was also United’s fourth biggest ever away win. Of course there is bigger fish to fry – with the ultimate target an inaugural finals berth – something which is on the verge of transpiring.
What went right: Defensive pair unwavering
Matilda McNamara and Kayla Sharples have forged a really formidable centre-back partnership this season. Against Wellington they were solid again, prevailing in challenges and anticipating imminent danger. McNamara, who arguably flies under the radar as one of the league’s premium defenders, is excellent at closing down the space and angles for her opponent and nullifying their involvement. She notched two tackles, won three duels, made one interception and an impressive six clearances. Sharples, meanwhile, has also been extremely composed when cutting out opposition forays forward. The American recorded two interceptions, four clearances, one tackle and prevailed in three aerial duels.
What went right: Reds’ compactness frustrated Phoenix
More broadly as a team, Adelaide were defensively astute in its structures. When the Reds did not have possession, they mostly left one attacker up front, happy to allow Wellington to play the ball around the back four, while sitting in two blocks. It worked in preventing the ‘Nix from playing through the lines and getting the ball consistently into the midfield to dominate the centre of the pitch. Adelaide then pounced on any turnovers and broke with intensity through Dylan Holmes, Nano Sasaki and Reona Omiya.
Friday, 18 February
Liberty A-League 2021/22 – Matchweek 12
Wellington Phoenix 1 (Jale 25’)
Adelaide United 4 (Dawber 5’, 59’, McMeeken (OG) 34’, Worts 55’)
Venue: WIN Stadium