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Manton St Tales

Five minutes that show United has grown

Manton St Tales

If Adelaide United completes an extraordinary turnaround by winning silverware at the end of the season, it will be worth revisiting the five minutes after Brisbane Roar’s goal in Friday night’s match.

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With the Reds 1-0 up early in the second half, the home team was awarded a dubious penalty and levelled the game.

And then a most unusual thing happened – United’s players reacted. Strongly.

Perhaps one of them looked around to his teammates and said, “we’re not having that” or similar.

For what followed was a lifting of intensity. More pressure was applied to Brisbane players and it included some heavy challenges. Not all of them were allowable within the laws of the game but it was a legal tackle – a massive slide by Reds defender Jordan Elsey – that epitomised United’s response.

And the pressure, combined with some effective transitions into attack, resulted in three goals to continue Adelaide’s stunning surge.

There have been two features of United teams in recent times that have driven me, and plenty of other fans, to despair.

One has been the possession obsession. It’s resulted in several matches in which the Reds have held the ball for most of the game but failed to create chances and lost. The worst example was surely the first visit to Perth this season which I described a little sarcastically.

The other has been that United has had too few come-from-behind wins or, when in front, hasn’t been able to hold on.

There are matches you can point to here as well but the one that still gives me nightmares was played just under a year ago. After thumping a dispirited Newcastle 7-0 at Hindmarsh, United travelled to Gosford to face a struggling Central Coast Mariners team and duly took a first half lead. But with little more than ten minutes to go the Reds managed to concede twice when there appeared to be little threat posed by the home side. And this at a time when Adelaide seemed to be genuine title contenders…

Teams that win things are usually fearsome when they need a goal but then give little away when in front. Yet too often United has been stuck in the same gear regardless of the state of the game and has been punished for it.

Which is why Friday night’s win was one of the most satisfying in the Reds’ Catalan era. It was Brisbane dominating possession with little to show for it. Goodness, one of United’s goals even resulted from forcing a Roar defender to lose the ball.

Last time the two teams met, Brisbane scored one of its goals (in a 3-0 win) after an Adelaide player tried to hold on to the ball, instead of clearing it, and was dispossessed. It was an example of much of what was wrong with United before the recent run of good form.

Friday night’s game could have been different had Brisbane not been without three important players who were part of the Australian under-23 team’s unsuccessful bid to qualify for the Rio Olympics.

Nevertheless it was the Reds’ approach to the contest that mattered. As the aforementioned matches against Perth and Central Coast have shown, United’s shortcomings have often been evident when facing the A-League’s weaker teams.

Adelaide’s next game is at home against Newcastle and, as bizarre as it may seem, it will be a big test.

The Jets fell to a disastrous 6-1 loss yesterday and will be without captain, and former Reds defender, Nigel Boogaard for the match at Hindmarsh.

But this is exactly the sort of game Adelaide sometimes manages to throw away. That match the Reds lost to Central Coast nearly a year ago came a week after the Mariners suffered a 5-1 home loss.

Moreover, United has failed to score against the Jets in two meetings this season despite having the better of play. This is another chance for the Reds to show they have a winning approach to match their ability.

Because when you move past all the analytical talk, as worthy as it may be, sport’s harder to measure aspects still matter. Perhaps we focus less on things like mentality and attitude because they’re almost impossible to quantify.

It seems United’s players have grown in those areas. Long may that continue.

Paul Marcuccitti’s soccer column is published in InDaily on Mondays. He is a co-presenter of 5RTI’s Soccer on 531 program which can be heard from 10am on Saturdays.

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