Monday, February 23, 2009

Adelaide 1-0 Queensland

After the humiliation at the hands of Melbourne, a loss to Queensland seemed inevitable. The players looked sluggish and defeated, and Vidmar's outburst could easily have served as a warrant for hanging by those wielding power at the club.

Who knows what transpired behind closed doors in the aftermath of that infamous press conference. What matters is that club management gave their support to their embattled coach (in public, at least), allowing Viddie to focus on the task at hand. Recapturing team spirit and morale, essential ingredients for any successful team, was the first step, and to that end Vidmar took his players out for dinner and a few drinks to brush away the cobwebs. From the looks of things, it worked.

On the pitch, Adelaide went back to basics. The line-up against Queensland was very similar to that which was so effective in the Asian Champions League and in the first two-thirds of the A-League season: a 4-5-1, or 4-2-3-1 (whatever you want to call it) with two deep midfielders in front of a back four, and wingers pushing high up the park. In terms of personnel, the big change was the inclusion of Jonas Salley in midfield.

Salley had probably the best game I've ever seen him play. He was everywhere: breaking up attacks with steely discipline, and demonstrating an often-overlooked creative, attacking side to his game. At one point he had a snapshot volley from outside the box that, had it gone in, would have rivalled Barbiero's missile. It didn't miss by much. Salley's performance was outstanding, and the crowd gave him a well-deserved standing ovation when he came off for Griffiths late in the game.His efforts raise a few questions: why are Adelaide are letting him go, and why he has been overlooked so often this season? I wish I knew, but I'll be sad to see him leave.

From the outset, Adelaide played with purpose and confidence that had been so lacking in the matches against Melbourne. The midfield converted defence to attack well, pushing up to support Cristiano far more effectively than has been the case at times. Adelaide were noticeably more mobile this match, moving into space and passing the ball well.

The match started pretty evenly, with both sides launching decent attacks. In the 25th minute, though, a moment of magic turned the game on its head. Galekovic pumped a long ball forward, to which Craig Moore got a head on under pressure from Cristiano. Unfortunately for Moore, he managed to nod the ball into the path of Fabian Barbiero, steaming forward toward goal. Barbiero took a touch to control on the run, then smacked the skin off the ball from 25m out. Top corner, probably the most spectacular strike in Adelaide United's short history. And I missed it thanks to a compelling urge to urinate and purchase beer. Goddammit.

From then on, Adelaide had the game well under control. Vidmar's defence locked the door and threw away the key. It's not hard to see how Zoran Matic's tutelege at Adelaide City has influenced Viddie's modern-day catenaccio. Queensland dominated possession in the second half, but of course stats never tell the whole story. The Oranje were reduced to taking low-percentage shots from outside the box, and, with the exception of Nicholls, who found a fair bit of space, were contained intelligently by the men in red.

Vidmar's defensive tactics are often a bone of contention for those around the league. Michael Zullo's sour grapes after the loss are a case in point: he thinks that Adelaide's style of play is a poor advertisement for our league, and whines that Queensland's exciting style should have been rewarded with a grand final berth. A win for Adelaide over Melbourne will be a 'great shame'. To which the obvious reply is: tough titties, that's football. You win games by scoring more goals than your opponents. Complaining that Adelaide were playing to defend a lead is a ridiculously stupid thing to say. Queensland failed to take their chances. Farina claimeded after the match that Queensland were 'the better side' - I beg to differ.

If anything, Adelaide showed Queensland to be tactically naive. Their mobility and pace on the wings works wonders against most clubs, but they have always struggled against Adelaide's excellent full-backs and the tall timber of Ognenovski and Cornthwaite. Much like Adelaide's problems when playing Melbourne, Queensland were unable to change their game to put pressure on the home side.

I do feel for Queensland, though. It's difficult to comprehend that, for all their obvious quality, they haven't ever managed to bring it all together at the end of the season. They have fantastic young players, though: if I were a Roar fan (and had I not moved to Adelaide prior to the start of the A-League, I probably would be) I'd be very optimistic about next season. A nice touch at the end of the game was Sasa Ognenovski going over to applaud his old team's fans for making the trip and supporting all the way. Well done Sasa.

And here we are, about to play in our second major final of the season. We have a chance to finally put one over Melbourne in a big game (oh, how I wish I could be there). I'm not going to try to presuppose how that game will pan out, but I would like to see Vidmar start with the same team again, bringing Cassio on reasonably early if Pantelis is having a quiet match. Needless to say, Mustang Salley must play. He's the only Adelaide player with the potential to nullify Hernandez.

Perhaps even more important than making the Grand Final, this match secured our qualification for the Asian Champions League for the third time in four attempts. There's no reason why we can't have just as good a run in that competition again. Asia, here here we come.

The only negative point of the night was the crowd - a mere 8,500 showed up, influenced no doubt by the raised ticket prices as well as Adelaide's poor efforts in the past two games. Still, it was a pissant effort. Understandable for those who genuinely couldn't afford it, but shame on the fairweather fans who didn't show up when the team needed all the support it can get. The home end was in good voice to make up for the missing numbers, though: I particularly liked the 'We all live in a pissant colony' chant.

So, in anticipation of the big one against Melbourne:

The small but vocal crowd

What better place to celebrate a win against the Oranje than the German Club...


Nunny said...

We were lucky to hold that 1-0 lead. Queensland had a few chances in the last 15 minutes that could have very easily gone in.

Adelaide has a very strong defence and a comparatively weak offence. We played to our strengths and won the game. Well done boys.

Bad luck Queensland, you played well but were let down on the night by poor execution.

Guido said...

Good on the Adelaide fans having a sense of humor. Sometimes I think the active Melbourne supporters take themselves a bit too seriously.

Regarding Saturday. Well, let's hope football is the winner.

john said...
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