Beating Bunyodkor in Tashkent was a massive feat in itself, but the Reds’ trip to the Uzbek capital undoubtedly saw them come away with more than just the three points.
Beating Bunyodkor in Tashkent was a massive feat in itself, but the Reds- trip to the Uzbek capital undoubtedly saw them come away with more than just the three points.
It may have only been one game, but the value of the trip to Uzbekistan cannot be underestimated. Unlike away games in the Hyundai A-League, time away for AFC Champions League matches is longer and sees players and staff spending more time together, having more meals together and living out of each other-s pockets.
This can have a galvanising affect on a group, and Coach John Kosmina believes the journey to Tashkent and being in unfamiliar surroundings provided just that.
“I didn-t mind it,” Kosmina said of the time away.
“For me it was an experience and I think that-s the way the whole team has got to look at it. It-s new, it-s refreshing and it-s an opportunity that only football can offer.”
“It-s a different stimulus and a whole different set of circumstances. Maybe being on the other side of the world was a good thing.”
The scenes in the Reds change rooms after the game were some that have not been seen for a considerable time. In a Hyundai A-League season that has not gone to plan, the players found out against Bunyodkor what can be achieved when everyone is unreservedly committed to the cause. There was a team that showed signs of understanding and a willingness to put their bodies on the line for each other, something that was always going to take time with so many new faces coming into the squad at the end of last season.
One of the most noticeable aspects to come from the game was the Reds- work defensively. Kosmina always knew a highly skilled, technical and quick Bunyodkor were going to have their moments, but the Reds dug in.
“It was a good performance - solid, compact, good away from home and it was more disciplined than we have been for awhile, we didn-t get caught out although we did a little bit towards the end of the game which is probably why they (Bunyokor) scored but you-d expect that with the home ground advantage,” Kosmina said.
“But it was a good performance because of the conditions as well.”
For a team that has only managed three clean sheets in the Hyundai A-League so far this, the last of which came back on December 30 against Wellington, the Reds were less than 90 seconds away from achieving one against a club that has won the Uzbek League title for the past four years and has a formidable record at home.
Kosmina could be given some of the credit for the result but more so for the way the Reds played on Tuesday night. A true ‘players- coach who some players say is from the ‘old school-, Kosmina has been big on players rediscovering their enjoyment of playing football and what it means to be in a team environment. He has also gone a way to instilling what it means to run out in an Adelaide United shirt, which is slowly showing signs of catching on within the squad. Reflecting on the trip, the experienced coach could not have been more pleased with the outcome.
“I-m proud but everyone should be proud. They (the players) should be proud of themselves and each other because they did such a good job,” Kosmina said.
Luciano Trani-s thorough and tireless preparation leading into the game was also vital. The former Wellington Phoenix Assistant gathered as much information and footage as he could about Bunyodkor and helped to establish a game plan that could unravel them.
At 4.30am as the squad checked out of the hotel to begin the long journey home, almost as a parting gift from Tashkent to say well done, it started snowing.
The long flight home via Bangkok gave the Reds some time to reminisce on their achievement, but once they are back in Adelaide, it will be straight back to business. Hopefully all of the positives from the trip to Tashkent can have a flow on effect in their remaining games in both the Hyundai A-League and the AFC Champions League.
Finals in the Hyundai A-League may be gone, but going on the performance and result against Bunyodkor, there is still plenty for the Reds to play for.