Western Sydney Wanderers 0-1 Adelaide United
By Kieran Yap (11/12/22)
Above: Chelsie Dawber scores the only goal of the game for Adelaide United. Photo: Adelaide United.
A Chelsie Dawber goal from the spot was enough to earn Adelaide United a 1-0 win away to Western Sydney Wanderers.
It was another game played in oppressive heat. The winless Wanderers were faced with an Adelaide side that was eager to bounce back from an injury-time loss in Round Three.
Jenna McCormick returned to the starting lineup for the Reds. The central defender came into the 11 in place of the injured Ella Tonkin. Fullback Emily Hodgson was also a welcome sight on Adrian Stenta’s squad. She started on the bench.
Up front, The Reds boasted more firepower than Western Sydney. Dolan Medallist Fiona Worts started centrally between Emilia Murray and Dawber.
In contrast, Amy Harrison was often the furthest forward for the home side. The former PSV Eindhoven star is a classy footballer, but The Wanderers lacked a striker to occupy Adelaide’s defence.
It took only five minutes for The Reds to open the scoring. There was chaos in the Western Sydney penalty area, and it led to Dawber being clipped. The referee signalled immediately to the spot, and the Australian Under 23’s striker calmly slotted the penalty home for her second goal of the season.
While the teams looked determined to press, the heat meant that the tempo of the game never ramped up. Both sides tried to be disciplined in possession. Adelaide goalkeeper Annalee Grove saw plenty of the ball and was comfortable holding possession until her sides shape returned.
Western Sydney struggled to maintain possession, but Adelaide created few clear chances in the first half. The floodgates never opened, but The Wanderers were only really a threat from Harrison’s set pieces.
The South Australians came closest to doubling their lead through their best move of the game. Dawber cut inside from the right and found Worts whose back heel put Murray in space. The shot skidded wide and the half ended 1-0.
Adelaide began the second half with more intensity than the home side. Paige Hayward had two good opportunities to score in quick succession. Against teams with more firepower, these misses might end up being costly, but the fullback deserves plaudits for getting into that position considering the heat.
Worts found space on the edge of the area, but her shot flew marginally past the right post. Soon after, Dylan Holmes charged into the area but her close-range strike was blocked and then cleared by The Wanderers’ defence.
In an effort to change the outcome, Kat Smith introduced Sheridan Gallagher and Alexia Apostolakis. The pair of Young Matildas were effective out wide, but were unable to trouble an unflappable Grove.
Apostolakis in particular was Western Sydney’s most dangerous attacking threat. She used the space opened up by Sophie Harding well, and her pace got her into good positions. Her crossing was too close to Grove but her confidence prevented Adelaide from having control of that flank.
This wasn’t a classic match, but it was an important win for The Reds. They returned to the winners list and maintained their top four position. They are winning games and looking comfortable.
Finishing their chances is the most obvious room for improvement, and as Worts returns to match fitness, they may add more goals to their tally. The return of Emily Hodgson should free up Hayward to play up front and reunite the successful attacking trio from last season.
Western Sydney defended well for most of the game, but as with last season, they need a dependable striker. Adelaide looked to have an extra player at times because their defenders were not under much pressure.
It is a problem without an obvious solution, but Kat Smith achieved wonders at Alamein FC with limited resources. With time, she can do the same at Western Sydney.
Teams: WESTERN SYDNEY WANDERERS (4-3-3): Bloomer, Hristodoulou, Hunt, Keir, Matos, Steinmetz, Price, Gordon, Harding, Harrison, Caspers. Substitutes: Chessari, Chlastakova, Khamis, Apostolakis.
ADELAIDE UNITED: Grove, I.Hodgson, McCormick, Waldus, Hayward, Condon, Barbieri, Holmes, Dawber, Worts, Murray. Substitutes: E.Hodgson, Westland, Bowler, Xiao, Wilson.
Scorer: Dawber (pen) 5′.
Referee: Georgia Ghirardello.