Melbourne City overcame a slow start and missing firepower to see off a fast-starting Adelaide United side at Coopers Stadium.
With Winona Heatley and Holly McNamara unavailable for selection as a result of their National Team callups, Rado Vidosic had a selection headache.
Vidosic called on Naomi Chinnama to replace Heatley. Chinnama stepped up capably to fill in her position, being a key part of the City backline that kept a clean sheet.
Holly McNamara was replaced by Darcy Malone in City’s side. McNamara usually lines up as an attacking midfielder alongside Rhianna Pollicina, that specific role was given to New Zealand International Rebekah Stott, with Malone covering Stott’s defensive duties.
It proved to be a change that took City a while to get accustomed to. Stott has been one of the best performers in the Liberty A League Women’s competition this season, her absence from her usual role of linking defence to attack was evident.
City could not beat United’s press consistently in the first half, with Annalee Grove untested for a large chunk of the first interval.
The quality of Stott eventually came through in her advanced role, with her dinked ball claimed by Pollicina who duly converted her first big look at goal to put City ahead.
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Continuity the key for Adelaide United
The difference between the confidence and quality of Adelaide United today compared to its match last match against Melbourne City at AAMI Park in December was clear and obvious.
In Melbourne, United were clearly the second best side, with City dictating the game and earning a two goal buffer. City later faded which allowed United to pull one back, before Hannah Wilkinson iced the result.
This time around, it was United who started off stronger. The intense press from the Reds highly effective against a disjointed City side in the first half.
A big part of Adelaide United’s success this seasons stems from the fact that Adrian Stenta, and Joe Mullen today, have been able to field their best players consistently. That was evident again today, especially in midfield with Emily Condon, Dylan Holmes and Nano Sasaki all featuring in the starting XI.
The midfielders are all well accustomed to their roles and to each other’s game. Off the bench, United has Emma Stanbury and Reona Omiya who have also played roles in United’s season so far.
Adelaide United faded in the second half which ultimately cost it the points. If United is to continue succeeding this season, the midfield will have to be able to fire throughout the 90 minutes of games.
This consistency in the engine room is a big reason United had the confidence and ability the press which led to City’s inability to be productive with the ball in the first half. Making a quality side like City uncomfortable is the way to beat them, they must ensure they can maintain that for larger chunks of the game.
United fans would be hoping that the midfield can produce enough consistent performances and opportunities for its forward to propel their side to its maiden finals appearance.
Pollicina a thorn in Adelaide’s side again
Back in December at AAMI Park Rhianna Pollicina was the most decisive player on the field, and the ultimate difference maker between United and City. That theme continued today.
At AAMI Park, Pollicina recorded a goal and an assist, along with a massive six key passes to her teammates during the game. In a game decided by two goals, Pollicina was irresistible.
The game at Hindmarsh was one of finer margins. City won 1-0 and Pollicina once again opened the scoring.
In a cagey game which was not always in City’s favor, Pollicina was key while City wrestled back control. She was at her creative best with four successful dribbles, four key passes and two big chances being created off her own boot, the one converted being the difference maker on the day.
With creative partner Holly McNamara spending time with the Matildas camp for the Asian Cup, a lot of the creative burden will fall on Pollicia’s shoulders, more sides will be focusing on quelling her impact after her performance today.
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