Adelaide In Touching Distance Of History

Wellington Phoenix 1-4 Adelaide United

Above: Adelaide United celebrate during their win over Wellington Phoenix. They have now scored 12 goals in their last two games. Photo: Adelaide United.

By Kieran Yap (19/2/22)

Adelaide took another big step towards a first Finals appearance with a 4-1 win over a spirited and unlucky Wellington Phoenix.

The unsung hero of this game is Charlotte Lancaster, the defender was forced to act as the backup goalkeeper after Wellington were not allowed a replacement for Lily Alfeld.

This left a squad already missing Kate Taylor and Alfeld with one less outfield option on the bench, and a player with no senior experience as the only alternative should Brianna Edwards get an injury in the match.

Both sides attacked from the start. However, it only took until the fifth minute for the Reds to take the lead. “Goal difference” seems to be Adelaide’s mantra this season after narrowly missing finals last time, and they started with the same spirit as they did in the 8-2 thrashing of Brisbane Roar in the previous round.

On this occasion, it was Chelsie Dawber who opened the scoring. Nanako Sasaki’s slaloming run ended in a shot that was well blocked. The ball fell to Dawber just outside the box and she spread it wide to Matilda Mcnamara on the right.

The central defender drilled in a low hard cross to the near post and Fiona Worts attacked the ball but Mackenzie Barry was able to turn it away.

Above: Adelaide United congratulate Chelsie Dawber after she put them in front in Wollongong. Photo: Adelaide United.

Dawber had stayed back from the cluster of players and was in space to meet the clearance. Her shot was well struck and was good enough to beat Edwards through a crowded penalty area.

It was intelligent forward play by Dawber. She held back run running into the box initially and was left unmarked when the opportunity came to her. For the second week in the row, she had opened the scoring with a similar style finish.

Wellington almost replied when Ava Pritchard intercepted a lateral pass in Adelaide’s defence. She cut onto her left foot to shoot but her curling effort went over the crossbar.

Fiona Worts hit back for Adelaide. After scoring five times against Brisbane, she was eager to add to her increasing goal tally. The English striker gathered the ball near halfway and fired a long-range effort that skimmed wide, although Edwards looked to have it covered.

Wellington started the season learning how to defend. In recent weeks they have become a team that can rely on scoring goals most games. Alyssa Whinham and Pritchard combined to cross for Grace Jale.

Jale turned in the box and shot without hesitation. Annalee Grove dove and stretched but the ball nestled in the net and the Phoenix were level in brilliant style.

Above: Grace Jale smashes home Wellington Phoenix’s goal. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

Unfortunately, parity would not last long. Zoe McMeeken sent a long back pass in the direction of where she thought Edwards would be.

To the horror of the young goalkeeper, it was as good as an Adelaide shot and the Reds were 2-1 up through some horrible fortune.

McMeeken’s error was as surprising as it was uncharacteristic. She has been one of Wellington’s best performers since the season began. It was a costly mistake, but it will not be what her season is remembered for. Both her and Edwards were understandably frustrated in the moment but to both players’ credit, they were able to put it behind them quickly.

Edwards was called into action one more time before the first 45 was up.

Georgia Beaumont, in for the injured Paige Hayward turned cleverly. Her shot was hard and on target. Edwards was well-positioned and her hands were even better, she tipped it over the keep Wellington in touch at the break.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, most Adelaide games do recently. Worts and Sasaki both saw their strikes whistle over the crossbar. Edwards saved well after Worts sped down the left and shot from an angle.

Above: Georgia Beaumont in possession for Adelaide United against Wellington Phoenix. Photo: Adelaide United.

Whinham created, and then neatly finished an opportunity for Wellington after she nutmegged her opponent and then received the ball back from Jale. Her hurried shot almost crawled over the line but was cleared by a desperate Emily Hodgson.

Adelaide finally extended their lead. Dawber had come close minutes earlier but set  Worts on her way to her 10th of the season. It was a lighting quick attack, involving two passes. A defensive clearance was hit long and Dawber instantly moved it on to Worts.

The in-form striker sized up her options and took on Mackenzie Barry, the defender did well to stay with her but Worts created just enough space to get the shot away into the far corner.

As the game opened up, Adelaide were able to add one more. Dylan Holmes, in her 50th senior game as an Adelaide United player, carried the ball through midfield. She split the defence with a perfectly placed and weighted ball for Dawber to run onto. Her first touch took her into space and her second was into the net.

The game ended 4-1 as the Reds go marching on.

Adelaide’s front two of Dawber and Worts both have double figures for the season now. The pair have 10 goals each making them both equal first on the league scorers table.

Both players are in terrific touch but are more than just scorers. They are involved in build-up play and open up space for their teammates with their movement, or well-timed lack of movement if needed.

Above: In-form Chelsie Dawber battles away against Wellington Phoenix. Photo: Adelaide United.

Adelaide are playing brilliant, entertaining, and effective football. Their back four are solid defensively and are all capable of scoring or assisting and the midfield are dynamic and hard working.

Annalee Grove is reliable in goal and although Adelaide rarely keep a clean sheet, teams have to work hard to beat her.

The only thing stopping the Reds is injuries or (temporarily) the weather.

Wellington will be disappointed in this result, which is an indication of how far they have come. This young team go into games believing they are an even chance against the opposition.

This is not without justification. They defend well without dropping huge numbers behind the ball and are now scoring regularly. Jale now has four this season, and other attackers are no longer hesitating around goal.

Wellington have a nice long break now before they face Western Sydney on February 27th in a game they will be confident of winning. Adelaide’s next game is against Melbourne Victory the day before in a game that will likely determine their place on the ladder.

Above: Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis speaks to the media post-match. Photo: Wellington Phoenix.

Speaking after the game, Wellington Phoenix head coach Gemma Lewis said: “The own goal changed the game. We were a bit of the makers of our own undoing really. When you put the ball in the back of your net like that after that, the players’ heads went down and they were a bit gutted.

“We talked at halftime and felt like they were already a bit defeated as soon as that goal went in. I wasn’t too thrilled with the response because we’ve been in tough situations before.

“We played a little bit high risk, we played a little bit more on the front foot, we sent out fullbacks forward, we wanted to get the goal back because we felt like we could be in the game.

“And then obviously Adelaide are super dangerous on the counter and we knew that but we wanted to risk that anyway because lose 2-1, 3-1, it’s a loss in my eyes.

“Adelaide were good in the counter and undid us when that happened, two goals off of us trying to push and chase the win put the game to bed to be honest.”

Teams: WELLINGTON PHOENIX (4-1-4-1): Edwards, Kramer, Walker, Barry, McMeeken, Gomez, Jale, Wisnewski, Whinham, Pritchard, Knott. Substitutes: Jasnos, Jones, Lancaster (GK), Rue, Vosper.

Scorer: Jale 25′.

ADELAIDE UNITED (4-3-3): Grove, E.Hodgson, Sharples, McNamara, I.Hodgson, Omiya, Sasaki, Holmes, Worts, Beaumont, Dawber. Substitutes: Mullan, Murray, Stanbury, Templeman (GK), Tonkin.

Scorers: Dawber 5′, 59′. McMeeken (OG), Worts 55′

Referee: Kelly Jones.

Attendance: TBC.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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