Adelaide United put down a real marker for the finals as they produced an excellent performance in defeating league leaders Sydney FC at Marden Sports Complex.
This 2-0 win also ensured that the club have won their highest number of W-League games in a season (six) and are now well on their way to earning a first ever berth in the Finals.
Both teams went into the game on the back of disappointing midweek news. Dylan Holmes, the home side’s 23 year-old captain who has been in outstanding form this season, announced that she was moving to new Swedish side BK Häcken after this weekend. Her new team were formed out of a takeover of the previous campaign’s champions Kopparbergs/Göteborg who ran into funding issues and lost large numbers of their squad at the end of December.
For Sydney FC, there was the devastating news that key player Ellie Brush suffered an ACL injury at Perth Glory last weekend.
The league leaders from the harbour city went into the game having won their last five games against the South Australians, but from the very start this always looked like it might be different.
Adelaide started strongly with plenty of possession, looking dangerous down the left flank. It was therefore no surprise when they took the lead via a move that started down that part of the pitch.
With five minutes on the clock, Khalia Hogg’s corner was met by a textbook power header from Maruschka Waldus whose effort rocketed into the top left hand corner of the net.
Sydney couldn’t offer much in response other than Princess Ibini buzzing around the middle of the pitch, but United’s high press and constant energy nullified the Sky Blues’ threat.
A worrying stat for the visitors was the fact that every time they have scored the first goal in a game this season, they went on to win. Adelaide’s early goal only served warning as they kept their foot firmly down on the attacking throttle.
Just past the quarter hour mark, Mallory Weber let fly with an effort that curled wide, away from the right-hand post. That was a mere sighter though, as less than a minute later, Weber had better luck.
Dylan Holmes found Hogg just outside the box in a central position. She in turn played a ball out to the left-hand side once more where Weber was lying in wait. She took the ball forward and then curled an absolute screamer into the far corner past a despairing Jada Mathyssen-Whyman as Adelaide doubled their lead.
It wasn’t just in attack that Adelaide were showing the greater hunger. On one of the rare occasions that Sydney got forward, a sensational tackle from Charlotte Grant denied the ever-dangerous Cortnee Vine down right.
With seven minutes left of the half, Vine got free down the right-hand side after being played through beautifully by Ibini. Her ball in was met by Remy Siemsen who slid in to direct the ball over the line but the flag was up for offside.
Just before the break, Adelaide almost put the game to bed and it was a move down the left wing that caused carnage to Sydney once more. Emily Condon got away and played in Maria Jose Rojas whose shot was narrowly wide. It remained 2-0 at half-time.
Ninety seconds into the re-start, Adelaide came agonisingly close once again. Rachel Lowe lost possession to Mallory Webber in the middle of the pitch and careered forward to get a shot away which was just over the bar.
Still Adelaide United pressed. Chelsie Dawber did sterling work down the right and then just before the hour mark, Rojas had a shot that Mathyssen-Whyman did well to catch. As the shot got away Khalia Hogg accidentally collided with Ally Green which necessitated the Sydney defender to require lengthy treatment before she was able to resume.
Three minutes later, Rojas played in Grant for Adelaide who was taken out by Green just outside the box, with the Sydney defender given a yellow card for the challenge. The resulting free-kick was well over the bar.
With twenty minutes to go, Sydney earned a free-kick when Vine was brought down on the right-hand edge of the box. Teresa Polias’ free-kick saw Allira Toby crack heads with Adelaide defender Matilda McNamara.
With fifteen minutes left, Natalie Tobin was yellow carded for Sydney for a challenge on Rojas in the centre circle as frustration built for the league leaders.
Shortly afterwards, Adelaide had two more superb chances. First, Chelsie Dawber broke free down the right. Jada Mathyssen-Whyman came storming out of her goal but was rounded by Dawber whose ball across found Rojas. The Chilean’s effort was scrambled away for a corner. As the flag kick came in, Waldus directed a looping header against the bar before the visitors cleared.
With seconds of normal time left, Sian Fryer-McLaren was finally called on to make a save, such was the control Adelaide’s defence had, with Sydney’s sharp shooter Remy Siemsen largely anonymous all night.
Deep into stoppage time Adelaide hit the woodwork again with Weber playing through substitute Fiona Worts who let fly with a shot that crashed off of the crossbar with Mathyssen-Whyman beaten.
This was a deserved win for Adelaide United and arguably the greatest in their history. The Reds now look to be all but certain to cap their best ever season with a first appearance in the Finals. Losing Dylan Holmes to Sweden will hit them and they have a tough trip to Brisbane Roar next time out, but there is plenty of talent in the South Australian’s squad to push on.
Adelaide United: Fryer-McLaren, I.Hodgson, Grant, McNamara, Waldus, Holmes, Hogg, Condon, Rojas, Dawber, Weber. Substitutes: Grove (GK), E.Hodgson, Campagnale, Worts, Mullan.
Scorers: Waldus 5, Weber 19.
Sydney FC: Mathyssen-Whyman, Hristodouou, Mclean, Green, Tobin, Polias, Lowe, Wheeler, Siemsen, Vine, Ibini. Substitutes: Campbell (GK), Chlakian, Hawkesby, Rule, Toby.