Hayward On Target As Reds Edge Nix

Adelaide United 1-0 Wellington Phoenix

By Kris Goman (24/1/22)

Above: All smiles for Adelaide United as they beat Wellington Phoenix 1-0. Photo: Adelaide United.

Adelaide United kept their Finals hopes alive with a narrow victory over Wellington Phoenix at Coopers Stadium.

Adelaide wasted no time in applying pressure straight from kickoff. An early Fiona Worts corner delivers a long-range punt by Nanako Sasaki which goes close and has to be nudged out by Lili Alfeld. The next corner sees an on-target header by Kayla Sharples saved by Alfeld who’s earning her keep in the first three minutes of the match.

Wellington return the favour 20 minutes later when they get three corners in quick succession but Adelaide manage to keep the barrage of headers out of goal.

Grace Jale gets a genuine chance when she finds some space at the top of the box and tries to bend one into the top right corner. It’s a little high so sails clear but Wellington are looking like they are up to the task. Shortly after, Izzy Gomez passes through the defenders to Ava Pritchard who takes one touch into the box with Emily Hodgson in hot pursuit. Her shot is taken under pressure and goes high.

It’s nil-all at halftime with neither team able to broach the defences of the other. Adelaide started the half strongly but Wellington looked the slightly better side in the latter part of the half. Emily Condon is off at halftime with a quad injury. She is replaced with Reona Omiya.

Early in the second half, Chelsie Dawber’s shot on goal is blocked by Talitha Kramer and deflected up into her face. This incurs some injury time.

Dylan Holmes puts a solid cross in from right that is kicked away by the Wellington defence. Worts is off on a run but taken down by Gomez. Adelaide is getting all the attacking runs early in the second half.

Above: Adelaide United’s Nanako Sasaki (left) battles it out with Wellington Phoenix’s Alyssa Whinham. Photo: Adelaide United.

Worts takes a free-kick. The left-footed shot is headed away by Kate Taylor. Sasaki belts the rebound but it’s off target.

It’s a very hot night so there are two drinks breaks. At 60 minutes, Alyssa Whinham is off to be replaced by Jordan Jasnos.

A corner for Adelaide is cleared by Chloe Knott who’s been doing her fair share of defending.

The breakthrough comes when Dawber, on the right, passes ahead to Holmes. She slips it to Worts who is in the box but passes the ball back out to Isabel Hodgson for the cross. She drives to goal and Paige Haywood stands strong and holds her ground to knock it in. This is the first A-League goal for Hayward and the assist goes to Hodgson in her 50th game. It’s an excellent team goal with one touch by all involved. The celebrations are warranted.

Above: Adelaide United celebrate Paige Hayward’s winner. Photo: Adelaide United

Worts runs the ball into the box but Alfeld is on it this time. At 71 minutes Haywood comes off after scoring her first goal and Amelia Murray is on.

Wellington get a corner and Knott takes it. It’s directed straight into the mix in front of goal and headed back then lands with Jasnos but her shot goes just right of goal. It was a good chance but a difficult to control high ball meant accuracy was always going to be a challenge.

Hannah Jones and Saskia Vosper come on for Wellington replacing Kramer and Gomez. Sasaki kicks ball straight into Izzy Hodgson’s face in the box. The last ten minutes sees Phoenix apply the pressure. Jasnos is on a quick run, down the left, when she’s taken out by Hodgson. Phoenix had a great passing session up to the box but failed at the last pass into the box. At 85 minutes, Dawber is off for Adelaide and Georgia Beaumont comes on.

The Nix get a free-kick from the left just outside the box. It bounces around inside the box but ultimately does not go into the goal. Holmes takes a knock and goes down. 93 minutes and Sasaki is off, Ella Tonkin on.

In the dying minutes of extra time, Vosper’s big shot into the box is cleared. The ball gets back into the box and bounces around but is cleared just as the final whistle goes.

Above: Despite their best efforts, Wellington Phoenix couldn’t make the breakthrough. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

This was a close match. One has to wonder when Wellington will get their first win and it must be coming. They don’t play like a team with just a solitary point and certainly are overdue a win. It might be too late for a finals push but they are no easy beats.

The win takes Adelaide United into fourth place on the ladder and while Sydney FC has skipped away, there are only six points between third and eighth place, which is just two wins. Near the halfway mark of the season, it’s still wide open and a good run at this stage could see any team make the finals.

Post-match, Isabel Hodgson said it was a tough game and they had to grind it out for the three points. Hodgson came with her own personal cheer squad to celebrate her 50th A-league game. Some of her friends told her they couldn’t make it and then turned up in cheerleading costumes as a surprise.

For Wellington, Zoe McMeeken stressed after the game that they need to keep consistency. They had a good press at the end and are building each week.

Above: The reaction of Wellington Phoenix’s Chloe Knott at the final whistle speaks volumes. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis told media post-match that “it was a really interesting game”.

“It wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be. We’re both quite pressing and aggressive teams physically and it actually felt like both teams were a little bit passive,” Lewis said.

“I thought we’d find a second gear, especially when the game was going longer at a 0-0 stance, but as soon as that goal went in, you could see that the momentum had shifted and we had a mountain to climb.

“I thought our press was the worst it has been for a while. We were quite disconnected and they took advantage of that.”

Lewis believes the heat was a factor. “We’ve played in hotter, like against Sydney, so we can’t really use it as an excuse.

“I think the moment that we have a hot game like that with drinks breaks, there’s that mentality where they kind of let it get in their heads a little bit like ‘aw this is going to be hot’,”

“When you’re thinking that way you’re automatically feeling it, but that’s learnings for them in terms of being a pro and get past that stuff and not let it affect their performance. Whereas I thought that probably did seep into how passive we were.”

Teams: ADELAIDE UNITED: Grove, I.Hodgson, McNamara, Sharples, E.Hodgson, Sasaki, Holmes, Condon, Dawber, Worts, Hayward. Substitutes: Omiya, Tonkin, Beaumont, Templeman, Murray.

Scorer: Hayward 68′

WELLINGTON PHOENIX: Alfeld, McMeeken, Walker, Taylor, Kramer, Whinham, Gomez, Wisnewski, Pritchard, Knott, Jale Substitutes: Edwards (GK), Vosper, Jasnos, Jones, Martin.

Referee: Caitlin Williams

Attendance: 1,024

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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