After a tough start to life in the 2021/22 A-League Women season, Adelaide United has come into 2022 with a clear New Year’s resolution.
While there are still issues to iron out, it was a much improved performance for Adrian Stenta’s side against Perth Glory on Saturday.
The Reds seem to have found their groove offensively, putting four goals past Glory keeper Morgan Aquino after having scored four goals total in their three previous matches.
They had 17 shots, including seven on goal, a significantly better attacking conversion than what they managed previously in 2021.
United created just seven shots in its last match, a 3-1 loss to Melbourne City, with four being on target. Against Melbourne Victory, it was the opposite, taking 20 shots with barely any being worthwhile chances.
A combination of Fiona Worts’ persistence, Emily Condon’s corners and crosses, and Chelsie Dawber’s clinical finishes made for a refreshed looking front end that claimed the spoils 4-2.
It was the highest score the Reds had put up under Stenta after barely missing finals in his first season.
“It was nice to score first, it was nice to score multiple goals,” the coach told media post-match.
“We’ve scored in every game this year, so we’ve got confidence that we can score. We scored five, but only got four. I’m happy with the way that we’re created chances, and it was good to finish it off.”
The coach referenced an incident late where Worts’ elbow struck Glory captain Natasha Rigby just moments before she shot truly for what would have been her second goal of the season, before the referee disallowed it and showed her a yellow card.
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Part of the better functioning front end was due to the additional support Worts was given, who Stenta felt has been left isolated by her teammates at times to start the season.
Dawber was a big part of that, scoring two goals and assisting another. Her first was a slow, low ball that just got the better of Aquino, while the second was a clinical strike to the top right of the net.
Captain Matilda McNamara dropped in for her first goal of the year off a corner, coming screaming through the horde of Glory defenders completely unmarked.
But it was Condon’s goal that turned the heads of everyone at the ground, curling her shot perfectly off a free kick.
The win also marked the addition of players both old and new to the United squad, namely midfielder Dylan Holmes.
Holmes returned to the side where she’s spent four seasons after a year away in Sweden with BK Hacken, which she has made 15 appearances with.
The 24-year-old was substituted off in the 69th minute for Emma Stanbury, after struggling to re-adjust to the conditions down under.
“You can just see that she’s a really dynamic player, good quality on the ball, good leader,” Stenta said of her return.
“She brings a lot to our change room off the field as well. We feel as if she’s only going to get better once she gets used to playing in hot weather again.”
Where it went wrong predominantly for the Reds was in the defensive end, conceding two goals in the first half but keeping the Glory scoreless in the second.
Loaned American defender Kayla Sharples made her club debut, and performed admirably as a fullback. She won four of her seven duels, made two clearances, and four recoveries.
She successfully managed to kill multiple attacking build ups from the Glory, often marking Gemma Craine, but ultimately gave up a penalty, which was converted.
With McNamara having her best game of the season and Nanako Sasaki influential both defending and attacking, the backline group now just has a few kinks to iron out.
“We just need to be more ruthless in the way that we defend,” Stenta said.
“I think we’re still giving away goals through some of our decision making and support. Challenges were poor, we had poor moments on the ball.
“It’s definitely an area of focus for us and something we need to tighten up.”
Adelaide United is fixtured to next take on Canberra United on Saturday, January 8 at Viking Park, whose fixture this match week was postponed.
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