Red Hot Adelaide Break Another Record

Adelaide United 3–1 Western Sydney Wanderers

By Kieran Yap

Above: Isabel Hodgson celebrates her equalising goal for Adelaide United. Photo: @AUFCWomen

In front of W-League record 5,159 fans, Adelaide United faced Western Sydney with plenty to play for, to keep their finals hopes alive they needed a win and to hope Canberra drop points against Sydney FC next week. For the Wanderers, this season is ending a little too soon having enjoyed some of their best form in recent weeks.

All of the pressure was on the Reds and in the early stages it showed, the home side began nervously, unable to maintain possession and seemed to lack composure defensively and they were punished by Oliva Price who hit her shot home low and hard after a corner kick spilled to her on the edge of the box.  Although Sian Fryer-McLaren in goal was able to react and get a hand to the ball, it had enough power to roll past her and into the net. It was not the start Adelaide would have wanted but if there was a silver lining it was that it had happened early.

The recovery began immediately and in the eighteenth minute, Isabel Hodgson delighted the crowd with fantastic equalizer. Mallory Weber was fed the ball out wide and accelerated past her opponent to make room for a cross to the back post. Hodgson met the ball and calmly took it down before side footing it into the bottom corner to level the scores. She celebrated as emphatically as she’d scored, this was a final for Adelaide in anything but name.

Above: In a season of records being broken by Adelaide United, they also claimed a record breaking W-League crowd today. Photo: @AdelaideUnited

The Reds had gone into the game without the departed Dylan Holmes and the injured Chelsie Dawber and half way through the half things got even tougher for the home side. The electrifying fullback Charlotte Grant pulled up while racing Teigan Collister for a loose ball, she collapsed to the ground holding her hamstring and in visible distress. Laura Johns replaced her off the bench, but in the form Grant has been in recently, this was a potential blow to Adelaide.

While Collister was proving the biggest threat to Adelaide with her direct style and dangerous crossing, Maria Jose Rojas was putting on a show in typical style, delighting the crowd with the familiar tricks, flicks and sidesteps even if the final ball for both was sometimes agonizingly short of perfect.

As the half came to a close Adelaide looked to be in the ascendancy, Emily Hodgson stormed forward from right back, bursting into the area and sending in a low cross toward two Adelaide players, Sarah Willacy cut it off with a sure handed save to ensure the Wanderers went into the break level.

When the game resumed, Adelaide continued their assault on the Wanderers defence, buoyed by the possibility of finals and encouraged by the carnival-like atmosphere the crowd provided they went in search of a winner.

Lauren Jones who had deputized well for Grant, combined down the flank with Weber to once again set up Isabel Hodgson at the back post, this time the short missed the target.

Weber threatened the score line again minutes later when Willacy rushed a clearance under pressure from Fiona Worts. The ball fell to the Reds captain who struck it on target and forced Willacy to tip it wide.

Adelaide were rewarded for their repeated attacks when they took the lead through their centre-back Maruscka Waldus. An Emily Condon corner found her unmarked in the six yard box and she buried the header before sprinting in a celebration that included every outfield player and the entire Adelaide bench.

Above: Maruschka Waldus (red/navy kit) heads Adelaide United into the lead. Photo: @AUFCWomen

It was a well-placed corner kick, too far away for the goalkeeper to claim easily and close enough that Waldus only needed to direct it home, Western Sydney will be unhappy that she was unmarked but it was a fine goal nonetheless.

In response, the Wanderers sent on their experienced striker Leena Khamis, her impact was instantly noticeable after she beat Matilda McNamara to a long ball and lifted it over Fryer-McLaren, unfortunately it bounced off the top of the goal harmlessly, but it was a warning to Adelaide that the game was not yet over.

With less than 30 minutes to play Fiona Worts extended the lead for The Reds. A intelligently taken free kick was played low to the edge of the box, Waldus met the ball and hooked it towards goal the shot bobbled against players packed into the defence but fell kindly to Worts who picked her spot and buried it home to make it 3-1.

Both sides were unlucky not to add to the score line as the match wore on. Weber somehow crashed a shot off the inside off the post and Isabel Hodgson looked stunned not too have extended the lead after shooting from point blank range, only to be denied by a terrific reflex save from Willacy. Up the other end Sarah Hunter nearly provided a spectacular reply when she hooked the ball over her shoulder in a sort of standing bicycle kick that only just flew wide.

Fryer-McLaren kept any Wanderers attacks at back, coming out to cleanly and confidently collect some dangerous balls in, particularly from Copus-Brown’s consistently impressive set piece ability. It was a great way to end the match from a goalkeeper who had begun the afternoon in near-nightmare fashion and she had recovered well to play a major part in the win.

Above: Fiona Worts celebrates after scoring Adelaide United’s clincher. Photo: @AUFCWomen

Adelaide have done all they can at this point to qualify for finals, they have had their best season by any measure and recorded the biggest W-League crowd in history. Their contributions to the competition for the regular season have been wonderful and coach Adrian Stenta may have even unearthed a few future Matildas, if their season continues beyond next week, they will have made history with their first finals appearance.

This is the last we will see of Western Sydney for the 2020/21 campaign and after a rocky start due to an almost entirely new squad, they eventually found their groove and began to play some exciting football. Coach Dean Heffernan put his faith in young players and prioritized developing new talent over grinding out results, the emergence of Sarah Hunter and Bryleeh Henry as rising talents will be particularly memorable for fans of the club as both teenagers announced themselves with braces and performances that bode well for the future. The move of Libby Copus-Brown into a deep lying playmaker role got the best out of her and some of her sharp turns and long raking passes were top class.  Hopefully Heffernan can keep the core of this side together, the class of ’21 is an exciting bunch.

Above: Adelaide United’s final home game of their greatest ever season ended with the greatest ever crowd for a W-League game. Photo: @WLeague

Its goodbye and thank you to Western Sydney for now and maybe a “see ya soon?” to Adelaide United. What a wonderful end to their regular season.

Teams: ADELAIDE UNITED: Fryer-McLaren, E.Hodgson, Grant, McNamara, Waldus, Hogg, Condon, Rojas, Worts, I.Hodgson, Weber. Substitutes: Grove (GK), Johns, Campagnale, Kirkby, Mullan.

Scorers: I.Hodgson 18, Waldus 50, Worts 63.

WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS: Willacy, Matos, Yeoman-Dale, Orgill, Cooper, Copus-Brown, Hunter, Price, Henry, Collister, Russell. Substitutes: Newbon (GK), Chauvet, Galea, Halloway, Khamis.

Scorer: Price 4.

Referee: Lara Lee.

Attendance: 5,159 (W-League Record).

 PWDLFAPtsGD
Sydney FC10802241024+14
Brisbane Roar11641261222+14
Adelaide United12714221822+4
Canberra United11632211621+5
Melbourne Victory10622181220+6
Western Sydney Wanderers12417132113-8
Melbourne City1131792210-13
Newcastle Jets1121814187-4
Perth Glory100196241-18

Top four sides qualify for the finals at the end of the regular season.

Impetus’ coverage of Australian Women’s Football is supported by The Chicken Salt Co. They are offering every Impetus reader 5% off all orders of Chicken Salt from their website. Go to https://www.chickensalt.co.uk/?mate=impetus and place your order – 5% will automatically be taken off of the cost. The coupon code is impetus.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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