Above: Newcastle Jets’ Elizabeth Eddy curls in a free-kick at Coopers Stadium last night. Photo: Adelaide United.
Adelaide United 3-0 Newcastle Jets
By Kieran Yap (5/2/22)
I do not want to jinx them, but this looks like it might finally be the year Adelaide makes the top four.
A 3-0 win over the Newcastle Jets is the third game in a row they have taken full points. They have only conceded once in the last four games and have scored three goals in their last two.
There is plenty of football left to play, but Adelaide seems to be steadily improving the longer the season goes on. With five games remaining and the team in top form and a steady lineup, nobody will want to meet them in the finals should they qualify.
The Reds hosted Newcastle with an unchanged line-up. The visitors could not be easily dismissed on paper. The Jets were unbeaten in five games but have more draws than wins and sit in sixth place, five points adrift of Perth Glory.
Their leading scorer Tara Andrews started on the bench in a curious move. She did not appear injured when she came on in the second half, so this may have been a tactical move by Ash Wilson to try and press Adelaide using Jemma House.
It may also have been done with the gruelling incoming schedule in mind where squad rotation will be important.
Adelaide started with an unchanged starting eleven. Adrian Stenta trusting the same team that beat Western Sydney Wanderers 3-0 to do the job again.
And why wouldn’t he? Adelaide dominated the early exchanges. They won the ball back quickly from Newcastle and kept possession, but not in a ponderous or cautious way. The Reds pass quickly and aggressively, often with one or two touches.
A slick midfield move saw Emily Condon play the sort of through-ball that is becoming her trademark. Paige Hayward raced onto it but The Jets keeper Claire Coelho reacted first and snuffed out the danger.
Adelaide’s second chance came when the in-form Chelsie Dawber found space on the right flank. She took on Gema Simon and whipped in a cross that Fiona Worts met well. Again, Coelho was able to stop it.
A long free-kick found Hayward in the penalty box, her shot was directed on target but again Coelho was equal to the effort.
The Newcastle goal continued to live a charmed life when Worts had another opportunity to take the lead. Dawber and Hayward combined to get another shot on target. Coelho saved well but the ball fell to Worts who finished perhaps too calmly when lashing it would have opened the scoring.
The breakthrough eventually came in spectacular fashion. A seven pass move, that started at centre-back and moved from end-to-end eventually found Worts. She flicked it wide to Hayward who returned the ball to the edge of the box.
The final ball was the least perfect of the move that involved more than half the team, but Worts controlled it on the bounce with her right foot and rifled it home with her left on the half-volley.
Adelaide was 1-0 up after a first half of almost total control with 67% passing accuracy, much of that in dangerous areas.
Newcastle’s best chance came from a long ball forward that Ash Brodigan did well to bring down and face goal. Her shot was well struck and whistled past the post in a warning that Newcastle could still sting if given the chance.
Emily Condon had been creative throughout and almost doubled the lead with a free-kick as the half came to a close.
It curled beautifully and left the stadium in silence and Coelho stunned, but crashed off the upright in another escape for the Jets.
Newcastle introduced Andrews after halftime. She instantly changed the flow of the game. Her height and intelligent movement immediately started to stretch the Adelaide defence.
They had struggled to maintain possession in the first half. Andrews gave them a target and a player who can occupy the defence.
She would have been disappointed not to score, however. A Marie Dølvik ball in just evaded the outstretched right boot of the number nine and a free header in the box would normally be buried. But at 1-0 up, Adelaide suddenly looked slightly less comfortable.
Chelsie Dawber would be the one to put any worries to rest. After receiving the ball in the middle from Hayward, Dawber went the long way around the defence.
She dribbled laterally to the goal before going around the Jets right back. The eventual shot was on target and strong enough that Coelho could not hold it. It bobbled into the path of Worts who finished easily for her second goal.
Dawber sealed the result with a nice piece of individual skill. The long pass from Sasaki was controlled with one touch and with the second she attempted to spin into space. She was clipped as she turned and after a brief hesitation to wait for an advantage, the referee awarded a penalty.
Dawber stepped up to convert the spot-kick herself, make it 3-0, and end the game as a contest.
Newcastle had no such luck up the other end. Elizabeth Eddy went on a storming run into the box and was tugged back. The first pull was outside the area, but the contact continued, and she was controversially denied a penalty kick.
She took the free-kick herself and it took Annalie Grove’s best effort to deny her with a diving fingertip save at the top corner.
Grove deserves plaudits for Adelaide’s recent upswing in form. She started the season with a calamitous performance against Melbourne Victory but very quickly put that game behind her and has been excellent since.
Newcastle host Melbourne Victory next in a must-win game for both clubs. Adelaide travel to face Perth Glory in a mini-final that could determine both sides’ place in the final standings.
The football frenzy has begun. It was an imperious performance by The Reds to kick it off.
Teams: ADELAIDE UNITED (4-3-3): Grove, E.Hodgson, McNamara, Sharples, I.Hodgson, Condon, Sasaki, Holmes, Dawber, Worts, Heyward. Substitutes: Omiya, Evans, Murray, Varley, Templeman (GK).
Scorers: Worts 24′, 76. Dawber (pen) 80′.
NEWCASTLE JETS (4-3-3): Coelho, Simon, Brewer, King, Fenton, Eddy, Davis, Brodigan, Dølvik, House, Harding. Substitutes: Andrews, Johnson, Jordon, Jaber, Boric (GK).
Referee: Rebecca Mackie.