17/04/2024

Adelaide United will take on the Central Coast for a spot in the 2022/23 A League Men Grand Final (Image: Central Coast Mariners Twitter)

Adelaide United has ben comprehensively defeated by the Central Coast Mariners twice in Season 2022/23. Will Carl Veart change his approach when the two team meet for a two-legged Semi-Final?

Eight goals scored, one conceded, the maximum six points collected, and not a minute of doubt about the results from the moment the referee blew his first whistle.

That is how the Central Coast Mariners fared against Adelaide United in Season 2022/23, and now Nick Montgomery’s side is facing the Reds two more times for the right to appear in the A League Men Grand Final.

The one-sided nature of the results is striking considering that both clubs approach games in a similar manner. The Mariners and the Reds thrive in transition and spend their team off the ball attempting to press their opponents into mistakes.

What makes the outcomes of both matches notable is that both teams did not alter their philosophies when taking on each other. Montgomery and Veart entered the matches with their teams instructed to go and play their games, and the Mariners overwhelmed the Reds on both occasions.

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After his side’s defeat at the hands of the Mariners in Round 23, Adelaide United coach Carl Veart lamented his side’s inability to consistently apply pressure to its opponents, with the lack of duress in transition hurting the home side on the scoreboard.

“They took their chances,” shared Veart on what went wrong in the last round of the season against the Mariners.

“All four of their goals were quite similar, they went from one end to the other end without us putting too much pressure on the ball and you just can’t defend like that. At times we just didn’t get our pressing right and were passive, and a bit too standoffish, but that’s something we will have a good look at.”

Adelaide United’s attack has inflicted the same punishment on clubs throughout the league, that itself suffered at the hands of Mariners. The Reds’ attacking intent is clear in the statistics, where the South Australian side finished the regular season third on the ladder on the scoring charts and even averaged four goals a game in the month of April.

On the other side of the pitch, Adelaide conceded an equal 10th-worst 46 goals, which saw it rank amongst clubs that missed out on finals, such as the Macarthur FC, Newcastle Jets, Perth Glory, and Western United. That statistic does not read well, and against the Mariners it is amplified, while the goal-scoring habits Carl Veart’s side posses seemingly diminishing.

Despite his side’s struggles to keep out the Mariners, Veart stated that he will be looking for his players to improve in the attacking department against the Gosford side, having only scored once against them in two games. After defeating Wellington in an Elimination Final, the Adelaide United manager was quick to defend the way his side plays, which has garnered results in Season 2022/23.

“We’ve got to have belief in ourselves, we’ve had a great season. You’ve got to remember that we finished third, it’s the best finish the club has had in seven years, and we’ve played some great football this year so we are going to back ourselves.

“We had a good look at that game (Round 23’s loss against the Mariners) and where we let ourselves down, so I am sure next week the players will be really focused and want to show that they are much better than what they were.”

One thing that went largely unnoticed during Adelaide’s victory over Wellington was that the Reds kept their first clean sheet since the 20th of January, and a contributing factor was Veart’s midfield selection which may carry over to the Semi-Final.

Adelaide United started the match with three midfielders who excel at the defensive side of the game in the likes of Isaias, Louis D’Arrigo, and Jay Barnett. Despite the fact that this combination lacks the playmaking capabilities of some of the Reds’ absentees, it stemmed the bleeding that became apparent only a week ago against the Mariners.

Despite wanting his side to continue playing its positive game, Veart has shown that he can entrust this midfield combination to slow down the game when needed. Attempting to nullify the Central Coasts’ firepower through his team selection is a possibility, but Veart will have to weigh up that benefit with what is being subtracted from his side’s attacking game, with just two moments of individual brilliance being the difference against Wellington.

This match may feature two attacking-minded teams, but after the stumbles Adelaide United suffered at the hands of the Mariners in Season 2022/23, do not be surprised if the Reds elect to turn this match into a scrap at times over the two games.

A two-legged tie is an interesting proposition because the two teams and coaches will have the opportunity to take on each other and adjust to what is being thrown at them in a short period of time. Mistakes can be fatal, and adjustments will be crucial for two sides who seek a return to the biggest stage in domestic Australian football.

The last time the Reds appeared in a Grand Final, Guillermo Amor’s side brought the first A Leagues Championship to Adelaide in front of 50 thousand people in 2016, while the Mariners fans have to reminisce about a decade ago, when Graham Arnold’s 2013 side downed the Western Sydney Wanderers in their most recent Grand Final appearance.

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