Melbourne City pile on late goals to bury Adelaide United

Adelaide United 0-3 Melbourne City

By Jonathan Tay (11/1/23)

Above: Bryleeh Henry and Leticia McKenna celebrate a goal for Melbourne City. Photo: Melbourne City.

On a warm Wednesday evening, Melbourne City came away with a 3-0 over Adelaide United at ServiceFM Stadium.

In a scrappy, attritional contest, the scoreline somewhat flattered City, who bookended the second half with their scoring; 16-year-old midfielder Daniela Galic opening their account just after the interval, with substitutes Leticia McKenna and Caitlyn Karic sealing the result with a goal apiece in injury time.

Both sides met not only in the middle of tough stretches of three games in seven days or less, but also in the midst of dips in their respective forms. Melbourne City had seen a downtrend in their offensive output and creativity with the absences of Emina Ekic (season-ending injury) and Maria Rojas (national team camp) and were coming off a shock loss to Western Sydney Wanderers on the weekend.

Adelaide meanwhile, were hoping to avoid losing three matches in a row, their own forwards Chelsie Dawber and Fiona Worts also having gone cold, with just two goals combined this campaign.

With short turnarounds for each team, changes were made to both line-ups. City head coach Dario Vidosic brought in Julia Grosso for McKenna – Galic sliding back into the midfield – with club captain Emma Checker and veteran goalkeeper Melissa Barbieri also injecting greater experience into the backline. For Adelaide and their boss Adrian Stenta, Paige Hayward and former City midfielder Meisha Westland drew in, in place of Xiao Yuyi and Jenna McCormick.

Above: Melissa Barbieri was back in goal for Melbourne City. Photo: Melbourne City.

Vidosic spoke on Tuesday about the game being “a great chance now to respond, to show that [the Wanderers loss] was just a one-off”, and the Melbournians almost had the perfect start in the second minute, with Bryleeh Henry’s low cross just out of the reach of striker Hannah Wilkinson, following a lovely midfield turn, drive and through pass from Leah Davidson.

City, as they have for most of the season, dominated possession throughout, with Adelaide looking to block passing lanes and apply pressure centrally to prevent their opponents having easy passage; midfielder Dylan Holmes able to fire an early shot from the edge of the box after one successful turnover, though it was a comfortable save for keeper Barbieri. The Reds’ strategy was successful in frustrating Melbourne, however, whether due to the weather or their form, both teams’ passing radars were off, and the lack of quality led to a disjointed first half, scarce of clear cut openings.

The best chance of the period came right after the midway drinks break, with Dawber finding counterpart Worts beyond the City defence. However, as has been the case all campaign thus far for last season’s golden boot winner, Worts’ scoring touch continued to desert her, disappointingly skying wide when she should have done better.

City’s recent theme of toil in conjuring final balls continued, evident in the absence of any shots at all in the first 45 minutes collectively. Whatever Vidosic said to his team at half-time though, paid immediate dividends; a well-weighted through ball from Rhianna Pollicina found Henry on the right, and she put her cross on a platter for Galic to tap home just two minutes after the restart.

The goal energised the Sky Blues, and moments later Adelaide keeper Annalee Grove had to be quick to smother the ball at Wilkinson’s feet after a long ball in transition had put the New Zealander through.

The Reds continued to look to catch City out on the break, but found it challenging to create tangible opportunities for themselves; Dawber coming closest, with City defender Katie Bowen needing to produce a last-ditch sliding tackle to prevent the Adelaide striker from pulling the trigger in the box.

Above: Adeliade United captain Izzy Hodgson. Photo: Adelaide United.

Stenta looked to his bench for answers in attack, and in the 76th minute two of his substitutes almost combined; Xiao Yuyi’s cross was barely prevented from reaching Emilia Murray by a combination of City’s Barbieri and right back Kaitlyn Torpey clearing just ahead of her.

Adelaide’s offensive intent however opened up gaps further back. Minutes later, Henry, who was Melbourne’s best on ground, put City’s own second-half substitute McKenna through on goal, but while the midfielder was able to round the keeper, she couldn’t find the back of the net from a tight angle.

The Perth native though didn’t have to wait long for another chance; two minutes into injury time, a lung-busting run by Henry into the opposition’s third forced Adelaide’s Murray into a tactical foul. McKenna all but sealed the result in slightly fortuitous circumstances, with her effort from the resulting free-kick deflecting off the wall and looping over the outstretched hand of Grove.

There was nothing lucky about fellow reserve Caitlyn Karic’s finish however, the 17-year-old putting the icing on the cake in the 96th minute by turning then burning past her marker, before producing a delicious, pinpoint curl into the bottom far corner.

The result keeps City within distance of leaders Western United in the table for now, but the unyielding schedule continues on, with a big Melbourne derby on Sunday against Victory. Adelaide meanwhile, will go back to the drawing board, hoping to find themselves on the road with a trip north to face Brisbane.

Teams: ADELAIDE UNITED (4-4-2): Grove, I. Hodgson, Sasaki, Waldus, E. Hodgson; Westland, Barbieri, Holmes, Hayward; Dawber, Worts. Substitutes: Farrow, Tolland, Coorey, Murray, Xiao.

MELBOURNE CITY (4-3-3): Barbieri, Torpey, Checker, Bowen, Blissett; Davidson, Galic, Pollicina; Henry, Wilkinson, Grosso. Substitutes: James (GK), Chinnama, McKenna, Karic, Malone.

Scorers: Galic 47′, McKenna 90+2′, Karic 90+5′

Referee: Isabella Blaess.

Attendance: 803.

Artwork by: Charlotte Stacey, founder of On Her Side.

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