Friday night’s A-League Women match may be remembered by neutral fans for an issue with the pitch, but for United fans, this game was very much a momentous occasion that has been many years in the making.
Adelaide United ran out 3-0 winners against a Western Sydney Wanderers side that had prided themselves on their defensive record.
But this performance, which some have described as their best of the season, was much more than what occurred on the night, but rather the impact it could have on their season, as they look to reach heights the club has never seen before.
The Adelaide girls ran rampant on Friday night, with Chelsie Dawber the standout player for the side.
From the first whistle, they were on the front foot and piling pressure on the Western Sydney Wanderers.
In the end, set pieces and quick attacking breaks was where Adelaide were able to get over the Wanderers, capitalising on small mistakes and lapses in concentration.
Western Sydney hadn’t given away three goals in a match in this campaign so far, and the only game where they gave up more than one goal came early in the season against league leaders Sydney FC, who themselves have scored an average of three-plus goals a game this season.
It was not a bad game, where much of the attention was on a sinkhole. It was one of the finest performances the Adelaide women’s team have produced this season, if not in their history.
It comes at a time when they are looking to prove their credentials for a maiden finals berth.
While their men’s team have been a regular face in the finals over the competition’s history, the women have never made it to this stage.
Their best finish came last season, only missing out on goal difference, while before that they have only managed to reach fifth position on one occasion.
It wasn’t too long ago this club finished bottom of the ladder too. The 2017-18 season saw the club finish ninth, with Dylan Holmes, Emily Hodgson, Emily Condon and Chelsie Dawber the only surviving members of that squad.
However, the club have really turned over a new leaf since the introduction of head coach Adrian Stenta for the 2020-21 season.
It was also this season when the club brought in key players Annalee Grove and Fiona Worts. In the last two seasons, Grove has only conceded 1.5 goals per game and won five clean sheets. Meanwhile, Worts has four goals and six assists in her time with the Reds.
The off-season just gone was also a positive one for the Reds. The only notable losses for the club came in Charlotte Grant and Holmes (who indeed returned to the club shortly after this season began).
Meanwhile, the club were also able to bring in a number of new first-team players in Paige Hayward, Kayla Sharples, Emma Stanbury and most notably Nanako Sasaki.
Sasaki, despite playing her first season in the A-League Women, has been one of the standout players across the competition in her position.
A very intelligent player with a high technical level, she’s been key for Adelaide in both linking the defence and midfield while in possession and screening in front of the back line when United are without the ball.
Add this to long-standing players – such as Dawber and Condon to name two – starting to mature as footballers and becoming some of the top performers in the league.
Adelaide’s rise in the women’s department has coincided with fans turning out in larger numbers.
Crowds for the A-League Women games have risen from an average of 689 in the 2019-20 season to 1009 in the first five games of the 2020-21 season.
To end the season, they managed a crowd of 5159 at Coopers Stadium, which broke the record for a stand-alone regular-season fixture.
Few may have expected Adelaide to be in the position they’re in after their Round 1 thumping at the hands of Melbourne Victory.
But their free-flowing attacking game, combined with their defensive solidarity since their competition opener, has seen the club’s fortunes turn around massively.
The only negative to their season so far has been their results to other sides in the top four, and with the club set to face Victory and Sydney in their last three games, this could be what holds them back from finals.
But while they continue to pick up the points they should, you wouldn’t bet against them finishing in the top four.