20/05/2024

Adelaide United players celebrate Chelsie Dawber's penalty goal (Image: Adelaide United)

After both sides surrendered strong positions and succumbed to disappointing losses in Round Three, the Reds traveled to Blacktown to take on the Wanderers.

Adelaide United and the Western Sydney Wanderers started their A-League Womens seasons in contrasting form, but both shared disappointing fates in Round Three leading into their clash.

Adrian Stenta’s Adelaide side started off Season 2022/23 by defeating Sydney FC at home, before traveling to Western Australia and claiming three points against Perth Glory while not conceding in either game. When Round Three rolled around though, despite taking the lead, the Reds stupendously conceded twice to Western United in injury time to be left red-faced and without a single point to show for a mostly solid display.

On the other side of the country, the Wanderers had a bye in Round One but conceded four goals to the Newcastle Jets the week after, their own two goals only acting as a consolation. Kat Smith’s side entered Round Three against highly fancied rivals Sydney FC with low expectations, but after Sydney’s Nat Tobin saw red just before half time the Wanderers began believing. Despite playing with a numerical disadvantage for a half, a late Remy Siemsen goal saw Sydney FC claim victory and the Wanderers succumb to a second straight defeat.

It was clear which side entered the Round Four match with the quality and confidence to create. Adelaide United put the Wanderers under pressure early and a clumsy challenge by captain Clare Hunt on Chelsie Dawber gifted the Reds a penalty five minutes into the encounter. Dawber placed the subsequent spot kick in the bottom right corner to open the scoring for her side while recording her fourth goal involvement in the fourth match of the campaign.

The Wanderers sprung into action after conceding with Holly Caspers hitting the post before being judged offside and Bethany Gordon’s close-range header traveling over the bar.

Amy Harrison’s move from midfield to attack helped the Wanderers create some headaches for Adelaide but despite finding themselves in good areas, the home side could not trouble Annalee Grove. Harrison’s move forward also allowed the Reds a stronger grasp of the midfield, despite the absence of Nano Sasaki, with the forward often having to drop back to do much of the heavy lifting and most of her side’s opportunities a result of her set piece expertise.

In a largely uneventful half of football, a glimpse of Adelaide’s final third creativity was a sight for sore eyes, with Chelsie Dawber’s pass finding the returning Fiona Worts whose no-look backheel found Emilia Murray; the young winger was unable to convert the dazzling move into a goal, her shot going wide of the mark.

Once again, an early A League Women fixture in hot conditions during a “family-friendly” time ended up being anything but player friendly, resulting in drinks breaks being required. The conditions did not encourage a fast, free-flowing football game and it subsequently affected both groups of players, with neither side being able to dominate for long stretches and unforced turnovers being a frustrating feature of the first half.

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Entering the second half with the lead allowed Adelaide to play to the conditions and surrender the ball to the Wanderers, who had to exert more effort chasing an elusive goal while focusing on their structure, conserving energy, and hurting their opposition in transition. Despite having more of the ball after the break, the Wanderers were unable to trouble the Reds’ goal, not recording a single shot on target.

In comparison, despite not playing at their absolute best, the Reds still looked potent on the break, with Paige Hayward, Fiona Worts, Dylan Holmes, and halftime substitute Xiao Yuyi all finding themselves with clear goal-scoring opportunities but failing to double their side’s advantage. The match concluded with the Reds winning by a solitary goal to nil, Adelaide’s third win of the season, all by the same scoreline.

The victory extended Adelaide’s stretch of winning matches after leading at the break to 13 games, a record stretching back to December 2020! The Reds are now undefeated in their last five encounters against the Wanderers, winning the last three.

For the Wanderers, on the other hand, this loss meant that Kat Smith’s side made unwanted history. Western Sydney’s winless run, one that started last season under coach Catherine Cannuli, extended to 12 games and surpassed its 11-match winless streak in 2014.

Round Five sees Adelaide United travel to New Zealand for the first time in its A League Women’s existence to take on an ailing Wellington side. Meanwhile, the Wanderers will have to improve offensively if they are to gain any points from their upcoming trip to Brisbane.

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