Adelaide Claim First Final Berth

Adelaide United 3-0 Melbourne Victory

Above: Adelaide United celebrate clinching their first-ever spot in the Finals. Photo: Adelaide United.

By Kieran Yap (26/2/22)

Perfect weather and Coopers Stadium was the stage for Adelaide United to host Melbourne Victory in a match that for all intents and purposes was a final. The Reds sat in third position and a win would guarantee a first-ever finals spot. Melbourne Victory had Perth Glory breathing down their neck in fourth position.

Victory were buoyed by the announcement that Alex Chidiac’s contract was extended until the end of the season. The playmaker was making a return to her hometown for the first time this season in a must-win game against her former club.

The setting was the first Pride Game in Australian football history. The match was a celebration of the LGBTQI+ community, and the league and Adelaide had strongly promoted the concept midweek. The only smoke in the sky was from a series of rainbow flares from behind the goal. All of the ingredients were in place for the perfect football event.

Catherine Zimmerman had the first chance of the game. Courtney Nevin received the ball in space on the left and whipped in the sort of ball that has become her trademark. The header was wide but Victory earned a corner via a deflection that Analee Grove handled easily.

Both sides had difficulty making passes stick early. Chidiac was incisive with her balls into the final third, but it was the home side that scored first.

Dylan Holmes held up the ball well then flicked a pass to Chelsie Dawber on the wing. The low cross found Fiona Worts who took a touch to open up space, then on the second attempt scored past Casey Dumont.

Above: Scenes of joy after Fiona Worts doubled Adelaide United’s lead. Photo: Adelaide United.

Once Adelaide score, they almost always get another. Worts doubled the lead barely five minutes later. Shay Evans carried the ball on the right and played a terrific ball across to Omiya. She was tackled well by Polly Doran but Emily Hodgson recovered the ball and fed Worts.

Dumont saved the first shot but once again, Worts reacted quickly and tucked it away to make it 2-0.

Adelaide kept the pressure up for the remainder of the half but Victory almost pulled one back. Brooke Hendrix met a corner at the back post and it forced the best out of Grove. She was equal to it, and then again straight after when Hendrix almost scored again from the opposite side.

Grove must be one the league’s most improved players this season. Adelaide United have not boasted the run of clean sheets that Sydney has but in their all-out attacking style, she has been essential and excellent.

Victory found themselves 3-0 down within minutes of the second-half kick-off. If fans were late to their seats they would have missed it. It was that combination again, Dawber to Worts, and this time she only needed one strike to put the ball away after another cross from the right.

Victory’s best chances came from set-pieces, Corners and free kicks always posed a threat but none could be put away. Catherine Zimmerman was removed after a rough tackle which made the uphill climb much steeper.

Above: Adelaide United’s Matilda McNamara (right) challenges Melbourve Victory’s Maja Markovski. Photo: Adelaide United.

Chidiac was as industrious and creative as ever. Kyra Cooney-Cross was involved box-to-box and Polly Doran was as consistent as ever. However, the Adelaide midfield was relentless in their pressure and decisive with the ball. Matilda McNamara and Kayla Sharples seemed impassable in defence and Dylan Holmes was tireless in midfield.

Perhaps the biggest compliment that could be paid to Adelaide United is that none of Victory’s players had a particularly bad game. The home side were just ruthless, confident, and clinical.

In a final moment of heartbreak for Victory, fan favourite and star goalkeeper Casey Dumont was stretchered off after a collision for a 50/50 ball. Maja Markovski moved into goal. It was a worrying end to a tough day for the goalkeeper.

The 3-0 win has secured a first-ever finals appearance. In a recent exclusive interview with Impetus (see, Isabel Hodgson declared that anything less than a Grand Final would be an underachievement. On the strength of their recent form, she is correct and they look a fearsome prospect in the finals.

One caveat for Melbourne is their schedule that can be best described as punishing. They have played almost every three days, fatigue, injuries and an international tournament have played a part in recent poor results.

Jeff Hopkins’ players have done extremely well to be in with a chance of another top-four position. But now they find themselves in the odd position of barracking for Sydney FC to beat Perth Glory.

Above: Fiona Worts’ goalscoring run has helped to cement Adelaide United’s spot in the top four this season. Photo: Adelaide United.

Should they make the finals, they will be a threat, they have the attacking talent to deliver on any given day and the tactical nous to grind out wins against the odds. But their destiny has slipped from their own grasp for now.

This day was all about Adelaide United, on-field and off. They achieved this win minus Emily Condon and Paige Hayward, two of their best creative player this season.

Adrian Stenta has outperformed last season, which was to that point their best on record, without Charli Grant and Mallory Weber, who were two of their best players in 2020/21.

Whatever happens next, they have guaranteed finals. They have done it in style and they will fear nobody in the coming weeks.

Teams: ADELAIDE UINTED (4-2-3-1): Grove, I.Hodgson, Sharples, McNamara, E.Hodgson, Holmes, Sasaki, Dawber, Omiya, Worts, Evans. Substitutes: Beaumont, Mullan, Stanbury, Templeman (GK), Tonkin.

Scorers: Worts 18′, 25′, 46′.

MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-2-3-1): Dumont, Nevin, Hendrix, Eliadis, Doran, Zois, Cooney-Cross, Privitelli, Chidiac, Zimmerman, Markovski. Substitutes: Barbieri, Iermano, Maizels (GK), Murphy, Withers.

Referee: Lara Lee.

Attendance: 2,421.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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