Adelaide United ended their Westfield W-League 2017/18 campaign with arguably their best display, and despite not having made Finals, they showed glimpses of brilliance throughout a challenging season.
It was a rollercoaster of emotions for Ivan Karlovic’s side, as the Reds demonstrated their ability to play a quality brand of football and dominate games, but were not rewarded in crucial moments.
For the most part, the lack of execution on opportunities created and not limiting their opponent’s chances on goal let them down, and was ultimately the story of their season.
Conceding late goals, as well as goals off of deflections, did not help in their quest to win matches or get a deserved point.
But the Reds’ class on and off the field will be a massive positive to take from the year, and the key for 2018/19 will be to maintain a winning mentality and continue to build upon the progress made, under first-year Head Coach Ivan Karlovic.
Rounds 1-4 – An encouraging start
Adelaide were resolute in their W-League opener against Western Sydney Wanderers, but a late goal for Rosie Sutton secured the points at Marconi Stadium – an all too familiar feeling as the season would go on.
Makenzy Doniak, who went on to be one of the Club’s brightest players, scored her maiden goal, which was an equaliser to Lo’eau LaBonta’s introduction.
One of the highlights came from Remembrance Round, where a marvellous Doniak hat-trick, assisted by Adriana Jones, took the glory over Perth. The 3-1 score-line and first win at home was aptly something to remember.
So close to earning a point on the road against a Brisbane Roar side stacked with Matildas, Adelaide fell to a deflected, 86th minute winner by Hayley Raso, following a solid defensive performance in Round 4 at Suncorp Stadium.
Eliza Campbell called up to the Matildas, Sarah Willacy steps up
On the back of a strong opening to the campaign, Reds’ ‘keeper, Eliza Campbell made her own debut for the National Team, and pulled out some outrageous saves against China.
Unfortunately a concussion sustained on international duty would rule out Campbell for the remainder of the season, creating an opportunity for Sarah Willacy. The number two goalkeeper ably filled in producing some stunning displays.
Rounds 5-10 – Tough run in the middle of the campaign
Newcastle Jets visited in Round 5, and following goals by Katie Stengel and Victoria Huster, the brilliant Katie Naughton drew one back with a well-timed header.
Adelaide were unable to find an equaliser despite a relentless second half and hitting the crossbar.
A dramatic match at Lakeside Stadium saw Adelaide draw 1-1 with reigning champions, Melbourne City as star, Alyssa Mautz levelled after Ashley Hatch’s goal.
In the 88th minute, Willacy first conceded a penalty, but was able to dust herself off and remarkably deny Kyah Simon from the spot to preserve a point on the road against one of the competition’s benchmark teams.
Rounds 7-10 marked a tough stretch for Karlovic’s side suffering a 4-0 defeat to a clinical Melbourne Victory at the halfway mark of the season.
Back at home, it was another tough night for United as they fell 1-2 to the Wanderers despite a sublime Doniak equaliser, her fifth goal of the season. Alex Chidiac also hit the upright, and Mautz had an effort ruled offside.
Adelaide dominated the second period of their clash with Sydney FC, but copped a stoppage time winner against the run of play by Caitlin Foord. It was an all-round skilful display of end-to-end football which featured Chidiac on the scoresheet.
It got worse in the Capital as Canberra United came away with a 6-1 win in Round 10.
Rounds 11-14 – A strong finish
The Reds bounced back emphatically with a 1-2 win over Newcastle away from home, in what was a complete team performance.
Danielle Colaprico scored one of the goals of the season from a set-piece and Naughton headed home to give the Reds a lead they would never relinquish even in the face of stern pressure.
In Round 13, Adelaide came up against league leaders, and eventual Premiers, Brisbane Roar.
Adelaide forced Brisbane to dig deep at Marden, after a brave performance that saw the visitors take all three points in the final ten minutes of a six-goal thriller.
Raso broke the deadlock after a tight contest in the first 20 minutes, but Doniak shot back instantly with the leveller.
Emily Condon stole the lead with a header after Alex Chidiac put her body on the line to keep the ball alive. But Brisbane seemed to gain the momentum as Allira Toby equalised and Emily Gielnik sealed the 2-4 win, either side of an own goal.
In the finale the Reds welcomed rivals, Victory to Marden Sports Complex, where revenge and a win was on the cards to finish the season on a high.
Doniak drew first blood, played through the middle and dispatching expertly into the bottom corner for her seventh goal of the season.
Before half-time, Kyra Cooney-Cross levelled proceedings despite Willacy’s repeated saves in a goal-mouth scramble.
But it was Jenna McCormick who ultimately scored the winner ensuring a strong end to the season with plenty to build upon for season 2018/19.
Ivan Karlovic wraps up the season:
“Some of the football that we’ve played has been outstanding especially against some of the best sides in the competition.
“We didn’t deserve to lose against Sydney at home, (against Brisbane) bar the last 15 minutes was great.
“We can definitely match it with the best and we just failed to get results against the teams that were around on us the table which was crucial.
“There are a lot of positives we can take from the season, importantly, a lot of younger players are continuing to develop.
“We will look to strengthen the side and we are serious about making finals football next year, where we deserve to be.
“I’m looking forward to what is ahead, and we will put a plan into place for the long-term and we’ll do a lot of hard work in the off-season.
“Next season, we’ll be ready to get the results and we will do whatever it takes to make sure that happens.”