Victory End Adelaide’s Historic Season

Adelaide United 1-2 Melbourne Victory

Above: Lia Privitelli puts Melbourne Victory ahead at Coopers Stadium today. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

By Kieran Yap (13/3/22)

After one of the toughest months of scheduling in A-League history, Melbourne Victory have emerged with their best performance of the season to beat Adelaide United 2-1 in the semi final.

Victory played every three days for most of February, they had players missing through injury, suspension, and international call-ups. Jeff Hopkins has been constantly re-fashioning and re-fixturing his side almost since round one.

When they travelled to Adelaide to face the in-form team of the competition, they had not won in five games while Adelaide had been outstanding in that same time.

In 32 degree heat on a near cloudless day, both sides began cautiously. They were able to pass the ball around the back unhurried. The pressure only came if either side tried to move through midfield.

Adelaide United almost took the lead early. A miscommunication between Courtney Nevin and Casey Dumont allowed Dylan Holmes to sneak in and get a shot on target.

Above: Combative midfield action at Coopers Stadium in today’s semi-final. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Unfortunately for the Reds, Dumont was able to recover and block the shot. Up the other end, Victory took the lead through captain Lia Privitelli.

The winger was back in her preferred position as an attacker in this game. She has been used to fill gaps in the squads in a variety of roles. In the semi-final, she started wide on the right. She had scored a brace against Adelaide United in round one this season.

Catherine Zimmerman’s first time curling pass cut out the entire Adelaide United defence. Privitelli had ghosted in at the back post. Her finish was composed and well placed. Victory were 1-0 up in the opening half-hour.

Minutes later, Adelaide United hit back in incredible fashion. Nanako Sasaki stepped up to take a free-kick. With the Melbourne defence and goalkeeper all expecting a cross, the Japanese midfielder took everybody in the stadium by surprise.

Her shot curled and dipped and sailed beyond Dumont as she scrambled to get a hand to the ball. It bounced in off the underside of the bar and Adelaide was level.

Above: Joy unconfined for Adelaide United after Nanako Sasaki levelled the scores. Photo: Adelaide United.

The match became much more tactical from that point on. Melbourne Victory’s back four were doing an excellent job of keeping the lethal duo of Fiona Worts and Chelsie Dawber quiet.

The pair have 23 goals between them this season, but their movement as much as their finishing has torn teams apart. All four of Victory’s defenders had to be on the highest level of concentration to keep them from getting chances to score.

Dawber did well to create an opening in the second half. She shuffled her feet to make some time and shifted onto her right foot, but her shot sailed narrowly high.

It was a missed chance, created from nothing, but It would also be Adelaide’s last real shot on goal for the match.

Victory went up the other end and Privitelli turned provider as they re-took the lead.

Above: Melina Ayres wheels away in delight after restoring Melbourne Victory’s lead. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

Melina Ayres was unmarked and untracked as she cruised into the penalty area. Her volley was low, hard, and perfectly timed. Annalee Grove could do nothing to stop Victory going 2-1 up.

Victory’s experience in knockout games began to show. Even players in the squad who did not win the championship last season like Nevin or Chidiac have played in tournaments at senior international level. From the time they took the lead, it became about getting the job done.

Victory brought on Harriet Withers, the plan looked to be to use her pace to stretch Adelaide and prevent them attacking too much as they chased an equalizer.

Victory continued to move the ball aggressively with quick long passes to relieve pressure on the midfield and reduce the chance of a turnover.

Adelaide struggled to create much. When they did regain possession, they were hurried by Victory’s press. The equalizer would not come. Their remarkable season was over.

Above: The disappointment is clear for Adelaide United’s players after the game, but they have had another season to be proud of. Photo: Adelaide United.

Victory now has another Melbourne Derby to look forward to in next weekend’s Preliminary Final for the right to meet Sydney FC in the Grand Final. City are wounded, tired, and will be missing key players Tyla-Jay Vljanic and Melissa Barbieri. Victory should be able to bring Kyra Cooney-Cross back into the side that now is at full strength for the first time all season.

Adelaide United will have to reset. They have built this side over multiple seasons and although they had the best season in the club’s history, there is still room to improve and if they keep the majority of the squad together, that looks likely.

Their trajectory has been upward and there is no reason it should not continue. This should be the first of multiple finals campaigns for Adrian Stenta’s entertaining squad.

In the end, experience mattered more than exuberance. Adelaide will be back, but Victory march onward.

Above: Melbourne Victory celebrate after setting up a Preliminary Final with cross-city rivals Melbourne City next weekend. Photo: Melbourne Victory.

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

Scorer: Sasaki 32′.

MELBOURNE VICTORY (4-3-3): Dumont, Nevin, Hendrix, Bunge, Doran, Chidiac, Jackson, Eliadis, Zimmerman, Ayres, Privitelli. Substitutes: Maizels (GK), Murphy, Markovski, Withers, Zois.

Scorers: Privitelli 29′, Ayres 57′.

Referee: Lara Lee.

Attendance: 2,607.

Artwork: Graphics by PW.

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