14/04/2024

Adelaide United players celebrating Hiroshi Ibusuki's wonder goal that confirmed the Reds' qualification for the next round of the Australia Cup. (Image: Adelaide United)

Three South Australian sides entered the Round 32 of the Australia Cup and they all passed their individual tests with flying colours. We take a look at the positives of three successful nights, along with areas of improvement heading into the Round of 16.

What went right

The State League side causes a Cupset

When the Modbury Jets became the first South Australian State League side to reach the Australia Cup Round of 32, many speculated about how they would matchup against unknown opposition.

Despite finding themselves in the second division of South Australian football, the Jets are currently soaring at the top of their league.

They boast quality players such as Hamish McCabe, the 2021 NPL SA Sergio Melta Medalist, along with strong, NPL level players including his brother Liam McCabe, Cooper Wegener and Matt Mullen.

The matchup against Armadale was an interesting one, with the Western Australian side presumed as favourites after gaining hosting rights and finding iitself in a higher division than its South Australian opposition.

Modbury entered the game as a side confident in its abilities, but its three goal win sent shockwaves throughout the competition.

Maurice Natale’s Jets overcame a slow start to score five goals in its demolition of seemingly higher quality opposition, in the process showcasing the quality of South Australian football.

The result may not have created the magnitude of Adelaide City’s original triumph over Western Sydney did, but it certainty raised eyebrows.

Black and white redemption

The 2021 installation of the Australia Cup saw Adelaide City come up against Tony Popovic’s Melbourne Victory side. Despite a valiant display against A-League opposition, City saw its resistance capitulate as a result of an Anthony Leban goal deep into injury time.

After returning to the national stage in 2022, Adelaide City had unfinished business in the Australia Cup. Paul Pezos’ side returned to the scene of the previous year’s disappointment at the Marden Sports Complex to take on NPL Queensland side Logan Lightning, a side making its Australia Cup Round of 32 debut.

City’s ball movement was a feature and Daniel Bressan’s goal was enough to down City’s plucky opposition.

The NPL SA and Federation Cup Champions enter the Round of 16 for the first time since defeating the Western Sydney Wanderers, arguably the biggest upset in Australia Cup history, once again dreaming of big things.

Clough attack

Zach Clough was brought into the Adelaide United setup halfway through the 2021/22 A-League Men season with a highlight reel and a resume that sparked real excitement for the Reds fanbase.

Unfortunately, other than his stunning semi-final goal, Clough did little to impress; many eyebrows were raised when the attacking midfielder was retained on a two-year contract.

After spending his pre season injury-free and training with Premier League stars Declan Rice and Matty Cash in the warm environment of the Middle East, Clough was prepared to impress in his club’s first competitive hit out.

The English midfielder pulled the strings in the first half against the Jets, even delivering the free kick that helped set up the opener on the brink of half time.

It seemed like Clough started running out of gas in the second half, but he had enough in the tank to add to his masterful first half performance, this time leading a Reds counterattack, against the run of play, to set up Hiroshi Ibusuki for a stunning bicycle kick.

If the Englishman continues playing to the standard he set in Newcastle, the two-year contract he signed to remain in Adelaide will begin looking like a stroke of genius by the club.

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What went wrong

Slow starting Modbury

Despite their imposing win in Western Australia, the Jets did not always look a sure thing. The first ten minutes of the match saw Armadale put Modbury under siege, with Adriano Jelanović even putting the home side ahead.

Modbury was obviously able to overcome its slow start and blitz its hosts, but it is anything but a sustainable habit, a fact that the Jets are familiar with.

Less than a week before its triumph, Modbury’s slow Federation Cup Final start was punished by Adelaide City. The Jets were unable to convert their strong play in the following thirty minutes with City hitting them hard on the counter and running out five goal victors.

City can’t find the finishing touch

Despite making it through to the Round of 16 in seemingly comfortable fashion, a concern for Adelaide City is that it is seemingly lacking the ruthless mentality it possessed at the start of the year. City was comfortably the better side and held the lead for much of the night, but it could not put Logan away.

City was fortunate that it was facing Queensland’s 10th ranked team; an opposition with more firepower may have required more than a solitary goal to be beaten. Adelaide City know all too well the dangers of being wasteful, a lesson that was brutally taught by Melbourne Victory in 2021.

Reds invite pressure

Despite a dominant first half, the Reds did not enter the second period of the game with the same intensity. The Jets looked to go forward with intent, chasing down United’s lead, but despite some nervy moments the Reds were given a reprieve through Ibusuki’s improbable bicycle kick goal.

The Reds may have survived a Newcastle side that is clearly still a work in progress, but it must get better in terms of match management to ensure it holds onto wins regularly.

Most of season 2021/22 saw the Reds chase leads, not defend them. If Carl Veart’s men are to maximise their output, they must learn to defend as well as they have proven they can chase.

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