Why Adelaide United will win the A-League

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Adelaide United sit one game away from an improbable grand final as they face Perth Glory in the A-League semi-final on Saturday. Here’s why they will win the lot.

When Adelaide rolls into HBF Park this Friday to face premiers plate holders Perth Glory, they be undeniably underdogs but Adelaide should take solace from their efforts this season to draw inspiration for an upset victory.

The easier point is to say it’s because Adelaide are undefeated at HBF Park this season, while that is true it is also a misnomer: United have only played there once this season and Paul Izzo transcended all possibility to save anything that came his way while Joel Chianese was only inches away from putting away a Jason Davidson cross.

It’s even easier to say that Perth will wilt to the pressure of a semi-final and a home crowd, but that would be ignorant. Ignorant of the pressure Adelaide would feel to make the grand final and end this reign on a celebration and ignorant of the fact that Perth, led by Tony Popovic and Tony Sage, are steeled for this moment, Popovic has been here before and claimed the prize while a Grand Final win represents the culmination of Sage’s long suffering efforts.

The reason Adelaide has a shot at winning the championship, is found within the intangibles as much as the tangible evidence. Based off the elimination final, the return of Baba Diawara gives Adelaide a striker which they have cried out for all season, he provides an outlet going forward who can hold up the ball which has been non-existent. This allows George Blackwood a chance to play as a shadow striker which is his stated preference, Ben Halloran shuffles out onto his preferred wing and the team as a whole becomes more balanced.

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If the table was to be split into home and away form, Adelaide would see massive swings in both. Their home form would have seen them placed sixth, but their away form would see them in fourth, in which they would have the second-best defensive record. United can play away from home, their defensive style in which the players stringently adhere to their positions enables them to remain stout despite the opposition.

Adelaide are undefeated in their past six games but what has been evident in those fixtures is the presence of enviable spirit, a devil may care attitude which has seen Adelaide play, arguably, its best football, as the players and coaching staff seem unified. That spirit is intangible but it matters all the same.

United thrive when the odds are against them. In the beginning of February, when Carlo Armiento whipped across a inch-perfect pass and found Nikola Mileusnic who tapped in from metres, Adelaide overcame Brisbane Roar from an impossible position. It was worse than impossible, it had only happened once before, being 3-0 down and walking away the victor. Even the Western Sydney Wanderers had 94 minutes, Adelaide did it in 51 minutes.

Yet Adelaide, through it’s manic, unyielding pressing of Brisbane Roar had found four goals against the grain and revived its season.

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In the middle of April, United had their backs to the wall against old foe Melbourne Victory, who dominated possession which usually results in a victory, winners in 2018/19 usually average 49.69 per cent, Melbourne had 54 per cent. Until George Blackwood stood up to snatch a victory with the winner in the 81st minute.

In the embers of the elimination final, it was Ben Halloran who became a hero with his winner against Melbourne City when the game looked certain for penalties. Each time, Adelaide has pulled through with their belief pulling them through.

Perth are a stern test, there is no better team in the A-League this season home or away, but United have a new-found belief which aids their game-plan which stacks up away from home, the odds may be against them but Adelaide has won against the odds previously.

After a season of drama and off-field antics, United sit one game away from an improbable dream. It’ll take everything to get there but if there’s one team who can achieve it, it’s United.

Feature image credit: Phil Radoslovich

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Adam Daunt
A student at University of South Australia who hopes his writing disguises his lack of sporting prowess and a fan who masquerades his choice in mediocre teams as being hipster