15/04/2024

Nano Sasaki competing with the ball against Alyssa Whinham (Image: Adelaide United Twitter)

Adelaide United transitioned from their usual role as the hunters to being hunted by the youthful Wellington Phoenix, eventually prevailing 1-0.

Adelaide United transitioned from their usual role as the hunters to being hunted by the youthful Wellington Phoenix, eventually prevailing 1-0.

Adelaide United went into their first meeting against the Wellington Phoenix as the overwhelming favourites. United are at a point where they believe that they can finally break their finals duck after years of disappointment, with the Phoenix aiming to continue being competitive in their first season of A League Women’s football.

The growing pains the Phoenix are going through right now are not foreign to this Reds side, with the likes of Matilda McNamara, Dylan Holmes, Isabel Hodgson and Emily Condon, all current stars of the league, earning their stripes throughout the years in youthful Adelaide sides who were often the underdogs at the bottom of the ladder.

These players have come a long way since those days. Adelaide United are no longer the team A League Women’s sides are looking forward to playing. Captain Isabel Hodgson, who played her 50th Adelaide United game against Wellington, ensured that those formative years drove the Reds against a youthful Phoenix side.

‘When we were there we were losing games but every now and then we would beat teams who would come into games thinking that they have it. I’ve done that as an underdog so I want to make sure that doesn’t happen to us now that we are in a better position,’ said Isabel Hodgson who debuted for Adelaide United as a 17 year old.

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Adelaide United where the fast starters and should have scored off a corner just two minutes into the game. United’s fluid ball movement was broken apart by the Phoenix in the second part of the first half, with the Phoenix threatening from set pieces and Alyssa Whinham looking lively.

Unlike their previous hit out against Melbourne City, Adelaide United came out with a renewed sense of energy and purpose in the second half. Despite a game full of disruptions, with four drinks breaks because of hot weather, and losing midfielder Emily Condon to an injury at half time, United fought the stubborn Phoenix to earn all three points.

The difference came in a rare moment of strong final third play with Dylan Holmes combining with forward Fiona Worts to release captain Isabel Hodgson on the wing. Hodgson’s cross found Paige Hayward who scored her first goal for the Adelaide United.

It was an encouraging defensive display for United’s midfield who ensured that goalkeeper Annalee Grove and her defence where relatively untested.

Nano Sasaki continued going from strength to strength maiden A League Women’s season. Sasaki, heralded for her attacking prowess, showed her game is ever-improving defensively, with five clearances, five interception, while also winning five of her eight duels as she consistently thwarted the Phoenix advances.

United’s win propels the Club to that coveted fourth spot on the ladder. With Newcastle and Perth having games in hand, it is imperative United keeps taking care of business to ensure a shot at their first ever finals campaign.

Three points against Wellington were much needed but also expected. As the season goes on and challenges mount, United must ensure they get the ball to the final third more often and in a way that gives it’s forwards the best chance to convert.

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