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  • Writer's pictureAntonis Pagonis

A-League Women: Reds "bend but don't break" with Emily Condon inspiration

Adelaide United recorded their first win of the 2023/24 A-League Women's season at the eighth time of asking on Saturday, with Emily Condon playing a significant role as the Reds turned the tables on Wellington Phoenix in the last 20 minutes of their encounter at Marden Sports Complex.

Emily Condon (third from left) and her Adelaide United teammates celebrate Nano Sasaki's winner against the Wellington Phoenix. (Ben Blaess/BDb.media)


The situation seemed grim for Adrian Stenta's Adelaide United heading into halftime against the Wellington Phoenix at the weekend. After a positive start, the Reds were carved open by incisive Phoenix through balls during most of the first half, with Emma Main's goal the difference between the two sides at the break.


The one consolation for the Reds entering the break was they were only one goal down, and Stenta addressed his first-half concerns by changing his midfield balance at the interval. The Reds manager withdrew the attacking Alana Jancevski, who had a quiet game, replacing her with Sarah Morgan.


Morgan's introduction provided the midfield with renewed energy, and she combined with Dylan Holmes and Nano Sasaki to block Wellington's favourite avenue to goal from the first half, which Stenta admitted he addressed at the break.


"We spoke about being a little bit more aggressive and being quicker and proactive to get pressure on the ball because we felt like the gap between the lines was too big. We just tried to tighten up and be a little bit more compact, both vertically and horizontally, and get a bit more pressure on the ball, and that enabled us to not give up as many big chances in the second half as we did in the first," Stenta shared post-match.


The Reds stemmed the bleeding and grasped a foothold on proceedings despite Wellington's continued insistence on pressing hard for possession. But Adelaide was unable to find the goal they needed to equalise.


In the 67th minute, Stenta introduced Emily Condon, who missed most of last season through injury. After the Western United defeat, the Reds boss admitted that "we are trying to get Emily Condon on the park as much as we possibly can" because her quality is undoubtedly apparent and was once again on show throughout the game's final 20 minutes.


As Wellington pressed high, a long ball to Chelsie Dawber was misjudged by the Phoenix backline and allowed the Adelaide forward a one-on-one opportunity against goalkeeper Rylee Foster. Dawber's effort was saved, but the advancing Condon cooly dribbled past Foster before confidently finishing from just inside the box despite having two Phoenix players on the goalline.

Condon scored her first goal since returning from injury and played a crucial role in Adelaide United's victory. (Ben Blaess/BDb.media)


Condon's ability was evident in front of goal and during open play. The midfielder could effortlessly keep possession despite the increasing pressure created by the Wellington players who often surrounded her.

Adelaide began to dominate possession while reclaiming the ball higher up the pitch, with the Phoenix often fouling their opponents through frustration and a willingness to slow the game down.


A needless foul on Morgan down Adelaide's left-wing allowed Sasaki to deliver a free kick, which Foster misjudged to hand the Reds the lead. Condon's excellence in retaining the ball played a massive role in Adelaide seeing out six injury-time minutes with little fuss.

 

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Stenta was understandably overjoyed after the game, feeling his side finally achieved the result it had been building towards in recent weeks. The Reds coach hailed his side's ability to hang in the game after Wellington scored and threatened to run away with proceedings.


"If you look back at some of our games, we've conceded goals in quick succession," Stenta said.


"1-0 is a very different game to being 2-0 down; it happened against Sydney, it happened against Victory, and it happened against a few teams where we conceded quickly, even against Canberra back in Round 1. So I think the response to conceding a goal and bending but not breaking was really positive and pleasing to see."

Adelaide United now travel to Sydney to take on the Wanderers, who have also discovered form recently. While Stenta and his side will imminently start planning for their next opponent, the manager admitted the group will take a moment to appreciate breaking their duck this season after an emphatic comeback home win saw the Reds earn their first three points in 280 days.


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