15/04/2024

Alex Chidiac was instrumental in the second half in her side's come-from-behind win in Adelaide. (Image: @aleaguewomen/Twitter)

After going down early, away from home, Victory midfielder Alex Chidiac produced a stunning second-half performance to turn the game on its head.

Despite Adelaide’s dip in form of late, Melbourne Victory’s visit to ServiceFM Stadium was never going to be a straightforward task. After travelling to Western Sydney midweek to face the Wanderers, Jeff Hopkins opted to rotate his squad to take on a fresher Adelaide side.

While Adelaide welcomed back defender Jenna McCormick, a move which saw Nano Sasaki return to her familiar midfield role, along with Chelsie Dawber playing as an attacking midfielder to cover the creative burden usually reserved for Emily Condon, Victory’s starting lineup was heavily altered.

Five changes saw Tiff Eliadis, Maja Markovski, Paige Zois, and Elise Kellond-Knight inserted into the starting lineup, while arguably the best goalkeeper in the league, Casey Dumont, fell ill and was replaced on debut by former Red Miranda Templeman.

Despite not being at full strength, Victory possessed enough quality to trouble the Reds but it was the home side that started on the front foot. United’s aggressive early play led to a free kick on the edge of the box which Mindy Barbieri placed perfectly for the unmarked Fiona Worts, who took advantage to head in her first goal of the season.

Despite not having a large amount of possession for the rest of the half, the Reds looked comfortable against Victory and even had a chance at doubling their advantage.

The visitors entered into halftime break lacking inspiration going forward, with the squad’s heavy rotation a contributing factor to the lack of a cutting edge.

Entering the second half, Melbourne Victory midfielder Alex Chidiac, who had been heavily involved but away from goals in the first half, was given license to take the game over in a more advanced position.

Right from kick-off, the visitors seemed intent on cancelling out Adelaide’s lead and it was no surprise that ex-Red Chidiac was the player to do so.

Just six minutes after the restart, Beattie Goad’s superb individual play out wide saw her get the best of Isabel Hodgson and Xiao Yuyi before playing the ball to Chidiac in the box. The midfielder took the perfect touch forward and away from her defenders before slotting the ball past Annalee Grove with confidence to bring the two sides level.

Only ten minutes later, Chidiac’s positive run found her one-on-one with the goalkeeper, Annalee Grove’s excellent shot-stopping the only thing keeping Adelaide level. As the game wore on, Chidiac’s influence over the game grew and as a result, Victory played some of the best football it has in season 2022/23.

The visitors had multiple chances to score, with Chidiac’s cross being turned onto the crossbar by Adelaide defender Emily Hodgson, Lia Privitelli’s close-range header going over the bar, and Maja Markovski being unable to get her efforts on target from close range.

As the game went on, Melbourne threw everything at Adelaide, with even a Chidiac Olimpico attempt cleared off the line by Nano Sasaki. Despite the dominance displayed by the visitors, it seemed like the game was heading towards a draw, but a certain former Adelaide midfielder had not had her final say yet.

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Not discouraged by Victory’s lack of a killer blow, Chidiac kept taking the game to the Reds with her contributions once again blowing the game open in the final 10 minutes. The midfielder’s inswinging corner found captain Kayla Morrison unmarked and the defender made no mistake to complete Victory’s comeback with an assured header.

With the Reds looking dejected, Chidiac once again wasted no time trying to rub salt in the wounds. Another promising attack saw the Matilda chip the ball over Jenna McCormick before audaciously heading the ball into the crossbar; a goal-line scramble proceeded but Victory’s advantage remained a solitary goal.

Melbourne saw off a late flurry from Adelaide to gain a massive three points away from home to build a gap between its fifth-placed hosts to five points. Chidiac’s excellence was not just the difference maker on the day, but it showed the creative spark Adelaide, and other sides lower on the table, have been missing all season.

With the A-League Women’s season being extended and NWSL players returning to their parent clubs, Victory may soon find themselves in a position where they will be missing their talismanic midfielder during the final stretch of the campaign.

Excellence leading to reliance is a common theme in sports and knowing that Chidiac will be departing, Jeff Hopkins will have to ponder how to replace such an irreplaceable talent.

Melbourne now hosts Sydney and with the two sides level on points, the winner will further entrench itself into the top four in third place. Meanwhile, Adelaide will have to be a lot more solid defensively if its visit to Melbourne to take on City is not to end in a similar fashion to its 3-0 loss at home to Dario Vidošić’s side only a few weeks prior.

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