Adelaide United has defeated Western Sydney Wanderers 3-2 in a thoroughly entertaining affair that featured four goals off set pieces a red card, and an absorbing overall battle between the two sides.
The Wanderers were strong off the blocks, and in the opening half an hour had multiple opportunities, with centre-forward Borello a consistent threat.
In the 28th minute, the centre-forward received the ball centrally just outside the box, weaved wide and forced a good save from fellow Socceroo Joe Gauci with a stunning shot across the face of goal.
However, it was Adelaide United who opened the scoring in the 37th minute with a well-taken set-piece.
Zac Clough and Craig Goodwin exchanged a one-two off a corner, and the former curled in a teasing ball to the back post from an inside left position.
The curling cross found the head of Ben Warland, who cutely glanced the ball to redirect it into the back of the net.
However, the Wanderers found a goal in the 44th minute to level the scores just before halftime.
Borello drove well through midfield, using his body well to fend off players and bring Adelaide’s defensive line tighter, before finding Yeni N’Gbakoto in a wide right position.
The winger fizzed a fantastic first-time ball across the face of goal and found Kusini Yengi, who converted calmly into an open net.
In the 49th minute, Adelaide doubled their advantage off another corner.
Socceroo Craig Goodwin, who had been a quiet attacking threat, played a dangerous ball into the near post, which was met by Ben Warland.
The central defender got his head on the ball and once again directed it past Lawrence Thomas and into the back of the net to earn himself an unlikely brace.
Six minutes later, Adelaide made it three, once more off an attacking corner.
Halloran’s shot from just inside the box after the original Clough cross was cleared was saved exceptionally by Thomas.
However, the ball was parried into the path of Ryan Kitto, who calmly squared the ball to Hiroshi Ibusuki to tap home.
Astonishingly, the match of set pieces continued, as the Wanderers clawed a goal back off yet another corner.
An outswinigng cross from N’Gbakoto found the head of captain Marcelo, who made no mistake in converting into the bottom left corner.
The Wanderers struggled to consistently threaten here, while Adelaide looked dangerous on attacking transitions.
However, a red card to Marcelo after an intense scuffle in stoppage time brought the game to a halt, and the full-time whistle was blown shortly after.
GOODWIN AN ADELAIDE GREAT
Craig Goodwin has made his 150th A-League Men appearance for Adelaide and marked it with an assist and an all-round solid display.
But beyond his exceptional end product, Goodwin has proved to be a key progressor for Adelaide this season, using his clever movement and range of passing to move the ball forwards effectively.
Adelaide United played a 4-1-2-3 build-up structure for this match.
Two central midfielders move a line up from a lone holding midfielder, while the fullbacks create width in the defensive line to stretch the Wanderers’ press.
With the two central midfielders occupied by the Wanderers’ double pivot and remaining static in their movement, the onus was on the two wingers – particularly Goodwin – to move the ball forward from a static build-up.
Goodwin’s weight of pass is one of the underrated features of his game, and it was used to great effect to retain and move the ball up the field, by drawing in opponents before exchanging one-twos, particularly with Ryan Kitto, to progress play.
Adelaide plays conservatively in build-up, with a focus on retaining the ball, which is a defence mechanism, as keeping the ball means the opponents can’t score.
While United sometimes make simple mistakes with the ball, the flat-back four acts as a support network to retain possession calmly.
This gives fewer numbers to support centrally and move the ball through midfield, with the two central midfielders moving up to support play in the final third, but with Goodwin’s progressive abilities, the losses are minimised.
Goodwin is the reason Adelaide can move the ball efficiently forwards while being robust at the back, and this is a different point entirely to his excellent end product.
The captain is crucial to Adelaide and how they play, and is only improving with experience.
WANDERERS SCARILY EFFICIENT, BUT FALL FLAT
In periods, particularly in the first half, the Wanderers looked frightening with the ball.
They would set in possession with good ball retention, playing in a 4-1-2-3 structure similar to Adelaide United’s.
However, the major difference was the way they progressed the ball, with the midfield moving freely in between positions.
This, combined with the technical quality of Romain Amalfitano, Calem Nieuwenhof and Milos Ninkovic, allowed them to gain an extra metre off their man and then receive the ball and retain it under pressure.
From here, the next movement had already begun, with runners following the same task to look to receive possession.
This extended beyond the midfield, and eventually, a free man was found, who would carry the ball positively into space – a feature of the Wanderers team has been the ability for almost every player to look to attack space when given it.
This created counter-attacks, where they could attack against a retreating defence.
But beyond this, their final third play was and has been highly versatile.
They’re able to create chances through all kinds of wide play, whether that be early crosses or well-worked cutbacks with runners in behind.
However, they’re also able to look centrally with the immense level of quality in the side and work the ball around the box with quick, incisive combinations.
They’re also excellent counter-pressers and can win the ball back quickly in these tight spaces and create a second phase of attack.
However, those periods were few and far between.
Particularly after conceding the third goal, Marko Rudan’s side looked flat, making uncharacteristic technical mistakes and being consistently exposed on attacking transitions; a more efficient Adelaide forward line would have put the game to bed with a potentially embarrassing scoreline.
While conceding chances is a part of chasing a lead, the Wanderers didn’t look particularly threatening with the numbers they moved forward until almost added time, and their lack of energy and excitement will be a worry for Rudan and his coaching staff, who are yet to win from a losing position this A-League Men campaign.
SET PIECES GALORE
An astonishing four set pieces were scored across this match, with all three of Adelaide’s goals coming from corner kicks.
It was yet another crazy A-League Men fixture, with each being a different variation of the corner kick.
The first was a one-two exchange between Clough and Goodwin, which allowed the former to swing in the ball with speed and accuracy towards the far post.
The pace and technique on the cross meant that Warland, who rose highest in the middle, only had to glance the ball into the far corner to give his side the lead.
The second of Adelaide’s goals also brought an unlikely brace for central defender Warland, who had scored just one goal all season prior to this game.
This time, the inswinging cross from Craig Goodwin landed at the near post, and Warland used his strength to brush off his marker and direct the ball over the head of Thomas and into the back of the net.
Adelaide then astonishingly made it a hat trick of corners, as Hiroshi Ibusuki got his name on the scoresheet by converting into an empty net.
This set-piece demonstrated the importance of remaining alert in the second phase of a corner.
After Halloran’s powerful shot was parried by Thomas, Kitto reacted first and got in front of Adama Traore to win the ball.
He then cleverly squared it across the face of goal to Ibusuki, who had stolen in front of both Marcelo and N’Gbakoto to finish calmly.
Meanwhile, the Wanderers clawed a goal back with a more conventional corner of their own.
An inviting, outswining ball from N’Gbakoto was met by captain Mrcelo, who converted into the bottom right corner.
This was a match won on set pieces, with corners a consistently overlooked aspect of football.
Training for a variety of set-piece routines can be crucial over the course of a season, and was in this case a major aspect of Adelaide’s victory tonight.
Western Sydney Wanderers 2 (Yengi 44′, Marcelo 60′)
Adelaide United 3 (Warland 37′, 49′, Ibusuki 55′)
Image Ciredit: Mark Evans/Getty Images