Preview: Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix
Can United get revenge on Phoenix and take their first steps on a journey towards finals glory?
Adelaide United v Wellington Phoenix Friday 18th February 7:30pm Can United get revenge on Phoenix and take their first steps on a journey towards finals glory? Be part of a Friday night thriller!
It-s time for Adelaide United to prove that they aren-t the Hyundai A-League Finals Series nearly-men. After a hat-trick of heartbreaking Grand Final defeats since the competition began, will The Reds finally achieve the success that they have come desperately close to in the past?
They certainly have the wherewithal to achieve it this year. With Marcos Flores providing the magic and Sergio van Dijk absolutely deadly in front of goal, this is a team that can unlock any defence. And you can play a hugely important role from the stands too. Your support can be the twelfth man, so get along to Hindmarsh on Friday night and cheer your side all the way as they strive for glory.
If the atmosphere is anything like that created by a turnout of over 21,000 when Rini Coolen's men played at the Adelaide Oval last weekend, then it is set to be a very special night indeed. And if the players respond in a similar way to how they did last week, then progress to the next stage is very achievable. Then, a 2-1 win secured third position and gave the side's confidence a timely shot in the arm.
The triumph over eternal antagonists Melbourne Victory brought to an end a mini-slump that had seen The Reds pick up only a solitary point from the previous three games and came courtesy of goals from the consistent Paul Reid and captain Travis Dodd.
Dodd was again on the scoresheet when Wellington made their first trip of the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season to South Australia, when three goals in an incredible six-minute spell midway through the second half saw United tear the visitors to shreds. The deadly duo of van Dijk and Flores were the other scorers in a dizzying period of pressure that sent the home fans wild with joy.
However, while the defeat was in keeping with Wellington's general away showings this season - lots of toil and plenty of promise but little reward - the side from New Zealand will hop over the ditch with every reason to be confident of getting a result on Friday. Under two weeks ago, they made the same trip and came away with a surprise, yet fully deserved, win.
The vital victory came thanks to Chris Greenacre-s first-half goal in the club's 100th Hyundai A-League game. As well as more-or-less pushing Phoenix over the finish line, the result also resigned The Reds to missing out on a top-two spot. If they can put in the same type of resilient performance on Friday, then Ricki Herbert's team could be set to embark on another amazing finals journey. Last season, they came so close to going all the way in their debut finals series appearance.
In front of over 24,000 fans in Wellington, they held their nerve and beat Perth Glory on penalties after an unbearably tense score-draw. Then, in the Minor Semi-Final, things seemed to be heading in the same direction, as Newcastle Jets were holding them at 1-1 as extra time ticked away. However, with the Fever Zone preparing for more nail biting as another shoot-out neared, goals from Paul Ifill and Eugene Dadi sent the mammoth crowd of nearly 33,000 into delirium.
Their hunt for a glorious end to a wonderful season came to a disappointing end in all too familiar circumstances though - with an away defeat. The loss in Sydney in the Preliminary Final was devastating, not least because one of the goals in the 4-2 loss came courtesy of the hand of Sky Blues- striker Chris Payne.
Still, there is no doubting that the experience, while ending flatly, will serve Phoenix well as they look to go even further this time round. Having triumphed on penalties, won in extra time and learnt a lesson on just how unforgiving the finals series can be, there is little that this season-s play-offs can throw up that Ricki Herbert-s side won-t be prepared for.
As for United, well, they've been excellent for much of the Hyundai A-League 2010/11 season, and their supporters will feel that the team deserves some silverware at its conclusion.
United fans, the serious business is about to begin. You were shown up by Phoenix earlier this month - it's time for revenge. So get along to this Friday night thriller and be more vocal than ever. Your team needs you to paint Hindmarsh red and fill it with unprecedented noise. Get your ticket today and prepare to sing your team to the next stage!