The new and vastly improved Adelaide United are the real deal

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From 14 attempts, Adelaide United had won just once in Canberra heading into their round six fixture.

Despite this statistic, there was something different about the Reds on Saturday night when they turned up to Viking Park.

Instead of losing yet again, the former easy beats took the game to Canberra, scoring in just the ninth minute to silence a vocal home crowd before holding on for a 3-1 victory.

This isn’t the Adelaide that opposition teams have become accustomed to in the A-League Women (ALW) competition, but if all signs from Saturday end up being correct, it may very well be the new normal.

Since the ALW competition began in 2008, Adelaide United have been the perennial cellar dwellers.

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With five wooden spoons, eight head coaches and zero finals appearances over their 13 years in the competition, highlights for the South Australians have been few and far between.

This was until the beginning of the 2020/21 ALW season, when fresh faces both on and off the field, notably that of head coach Adrian Stenta, transformed the team.

Whilst they narrowly missed out on their maiden finals appearance last year due to goal difference, they have used this disappointment as fuel for this season as they currently sit fourth on the ladder.

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For Stenta whilst the performance against Canberra wasn’t perfect, there were numerous elements that left him pleased with the progress they are making.

“We still didn’t have a 90-minute performance, but we showed a lot of character,” he said.

“Probably the most pleasing thing was our ability to respond when challenged in the second half.”

Character they certainly did show, and challenged they definitely were as midway through the second half Adelaide were not having it all their own way.

After Ash Sykes was able to put Canberra on the board in the 57th minute, momentum began to swing in favour of the home side.

Chances from Michelle Heyman, notably a free header that sailed wide in the 69th minute, begun to put the away team under pressure. It felt like Canberra were about to pull off yet another remarkable Viking Park comeback.

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The old Adelaide may have crumbled under the pressure, however Stenta’s Reds had other ideas.

They silenced the near 1000 Canberra supporters as British import Fiona Worts sealed the game with a 79th minute goal.

For Stenta, whilst flashbacks of their round one comeback loss to Canberra from last season was still in the back of his mind, he was always confident that his team could get the job done.

“Ive got confidence in the group because we have been quite resilient in all of our games, whether we’ve won or not,” he said. “But to get that third goal certainly made me breathe a bit easier, I was pleased that we were able to do that.”

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Neither the results nor turnaround have come as a shock to Stenta, who has contributed first hand to help rebuild the club.

“We have been building for a number of years now,” he said. “In the last few years it has been a different Adelaide and it needed to be to be honest. For far too long we have been at the bottom of the table.”

For Adelaide even if they do miss out on finals yet again this season, whilst they would be disappointed, the most important thing is that have completely turned their club around.

No more years of bottom-two finishes, they are here to compete against the very best.

For Stenta, whilst a finals appearance at the end of the season would be appreciated, he isn’t looking too far ahead just yet.

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They are scheduled to face a red-hot Melbourne City side next Saturday, whom they have already lost to this season.

Stenta’s goal for both that game and the remainder of the season is simple.

“Hopefully we can just continue to grow and build.”

Feature Image Credit: Jordan Trombetta

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William Makepeace
Current Intern covering Canberra United. Sports Media student at University of Canberra who lives and breathes Football

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