Adelaide Thunderstruck By Sydney’s Lightning Shots

Absolute mayhem.

There’s so much that I could say about this game. It took 3 hours. 7 goals were scored. Lisa de Vanna blew up. There was a record crowd for Thursday night W-League even with the impending threat of a mega-storm. There were moments of quality and moments of calamity.

Honestly, the only thing that was missing was a pitch invader on crutches.

Sydney FC 5 – Adelaide United 2

This was a game of quarters and the scoreboard doesn’t do Adelaide any justice at all. It was only at the end where they really faltered but until the delay when the lights went out (we’ll get to that later) it was anyone’s game.

The game began at a typically frantic pace. The crowd was in full voice as the Sky Blues launched wave after wave at Adelaide. Manly had already copped a battering of rain before the game and it resulted in an extremely quick synthetic pitch right from the beginning. It seemed in these circumstances that the speedsters such as Lisa de Vanna for Sydney and starting debutant Charlotte Grant for Adelaide were going to make a huge difference to the result.

As it turned out it was the American Savannah McCaskill who bossed proceedings from midfield. She created opportunities for her teammates left, right and centre with incredible vision and pinpoint accuracy. Logarzo was getting involved as well and when the seemingly inevitable storm delay came in the 20th minute it was a surprise that Sydney didn’t find themselves with a goal or two on the board.

Ah, the storm delay. This was the first hint at what a weird night was to come. It lasted for over half an hour. I went and got myself some pizza (it was delicious, thanks for asking). Fox put on highlights of the Tournament of Nations game against Brazil earlier in the year to keep us in the mood for some football. The presenters discussed endlessly how you could possibly cope with such a delay as a player. What team would come out ready to go once play resumed?

The Reds came out better. Sydney were caught flat-footed after play resumed. The ball was belted into midfield straight onto the head of Michelle Heyman, who was able to win the ball and nod it into the path of the red hot Veronica Latsko. Latsko proceeded to make Matilda’s defender Alanna Kennedy look like an absolute mug in a 1 on 1 battle and wacked it in the bottom corner. Adelaide had the advantage.

Once Sydney got their heads around the fact that they had conceded they continued to play in the same way that they had before the break – dominating possession, balls into the box, and shots, but couldn’t quite get that goal that they wanted. It looked like Adelaide’s defence might achieve what they had done all season and keep them out against all odds.

This changed right on the brink of half time. Caitlin Foord (who, despite all of the pre-game hype had been largely a passenger in the first half) plonked a cross on Sofia Huerta’s head. She had more than enough quality to direct it across Willacy and into the back of the net. We went into half time equal, which was about what the game deserved.

The second half continued in much the same fashion with the Sky Blues battering Adelaide’s defence. They continued to somehow hold on. There was one moment in particular where de Vanna managed to kick the ball from a yard out tamely into Red’s keeper Willacy rather than into the back of the net just after half time.  That may have contributed to the shenanigans that followed.

On around the 55th minute, LDV was subbed. She wasn’t happy, to put it lightly. The coach can feel vindicated by the fact that her replacement, Princess Ibini-Isei, had an immediate impact. Dancing into the edge of the area she popped it in the middle for Colaprico to eventually finish. De Vanna didn’t come out to celebrate the goal. 2-1 Sydney, good work coach.

Good luck with dealing with that throughout the week, though. Personally I would probably just resign then and there. I am simultaneously so in love with and so terrified of Lisa de Vanna. Mostly terrified.

Of course Adelaide were never going to take that laying down. Yet again, against the run of play, they found a way to equalise through (now golden boot leader) Latsko. A perfect cross from the boot of the Icelandic midfielder whose name I am not even going to try to spell or pronounce landed straight on Latsko’s head, and a finisher of her quality was never going to miss from there. All equal. So spicy.

But wait! Sydney weren’t done either. Ibini-Isei created a free kick on the edge of the area that Colaprico whipped in perfectly for McCaskill to finish and get herself a well-deserved goal. The Sky Blues were up and about and they just had to hold their nerve in order to get the result.

What didn’t hold their nerves were the floodlights, which proceeded to use this moment to go out.

At this point I was quite drunk, full of pizza and loving every second. This game had it all. I guess the lights must have automatically gone out at 10pm, given that the game was meant to finish half an hour ago. It still had 20 minutes to go. What was going to happen next?

One of the TLL girls commented on the pitch in the group chat. It just looked like mud with green painted on it, it was so smooth and wet. I guess that’s what happens when it sees a game of this quality.

The last 20 minutes saw 2 more goals but the intensity of the game seemed to finally be gone after the break for the lights. Players must have been feeling the cramps, including Alanna Kennedy who looked at one stage to be in quite a bit of trouble. This last period was all Sydney and more pointedly all Ibini-Isei who managed to get herself a brace – the first off a rebound from a Logarzo shot and the second a drilled finish into the bottom corner from outside the box. If she keeps playing like this Staj will have a mighty headache for France.

When they’re on, Sydney look like the best team in the league by a mile. Their defence isn’t quite at 100% yet, with Harrison, Kennedy and Ralston all coming off recent injuries, but it is their midfield and attack where they seriously shine. McCaskill and Colaprico had stunners, and we know how dangerous De Vanna, Logarzo and Foord can be. Huerta and Harrison add attacking impetus from full back and when you have players like Ibini-Isei and Green to come off the bench you know that you have a treasure trove of riches.

Adelaide really didn’t do too much wrong. They know that their strength lies on hitting teams on the counter and they pulled that off with finishes from Latsko again. However, the second break in particular hurt them and dealing with an attack as deadly as Sydney’s was always going to be difficult. If they can mentally pick themselves up they have nothing at all to worry about for the rest of the season. They’re still in the top 4 best teams in the league for mine and their position should reflect that at the end.

This has been my favourite W League game of the season so far. A big crowd, lots of drama and lots of goals made it a classic. This nonsense is what we watch Australian football for. Long live the W League.

By Taryn Heddo

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