Wanderers' title hopes dented in stunning loss to Adelaide

Western Sydney Wanderers’ Premiership hopes suffered a severe blow as Adelaide United clung on to a shock 3-2 win to climb off the bottom of the ladder.

Chelsie Dawber’s opener and a double from Mallory Weber set the Lady Reds on course for a first victory of the 2019/20 campaign, but late goals from Sam Staab and an own goal from Lais Araujo made it a nervy finish at the Marden Sports Complex. 

Kristen Hamilton had skied an 81st-minute penalty with the score still at 3-0 and Amy Harrison lashed a 95th minute volley over the crossbar as the out-of-sorts Westfield W-League title challengers fell to a second defeat in three games.

A sudden slip in form leaves Dean Heffernan’s second-placed side trailing Melbourne City by six points with three games to play – but the Red and Black remain in the mix to claim their first ever Finals Series berth.

The rock bottom side stunned the competition high fliers from the off with their crisp passing and fluid movement as Emily Condon rattled the crossbar on six minutes to leave the visitors rocked – and that served as a warning sign of what was to follow.

In their first match without Irish midfielder Denise O’Sullivan following the end of her guest player contract, Western Sydney failed to stamp their mark on the game as Dawber’s 17th-minute strike and Weber’s late first-half double left Wanderers reeling at the interval.

The visitors continued to be carved open in the second half but some desperate defending kept Western Sydney from further embarrassment until their late rally, but it was not enough to deny Adelaide one of the upsets of the 2019/20 season.

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They may have started the day as winless cellar dwellers, but the Lady Reds opened in confident fashion with American attacker Weber racing through on goal and drawing a rash foul from back-up goalkeeper Newbon, who received a yellow card on her second Westfield W-League start in relief of the injured United States custodian Abby Smith after two minutes.

There were more nervous moments for Western Sydney in the sixth minute when Weber stole the ball from Alex Huynh and Condon crashed a shot against the top of the visitors’ crossbar, but the Golden-clad Wanderers finally threatened on 15 minutes when stand-in right-back Amy Harrison found Kirsten Hamilton and her driven delivery flashed past both Courtnee Vine and the home goal.

Moments later, the visitors had fallen behind when Huynh lost possession again deep in her own territory and Dawber made no mistake from 20 yards to fire Adelaide in front.

When Laura Johns cut through the middle on 39 minutes and found Condon on the right, the Lady Reds sent shockwaves through their opponents as Weber tapped in a precision cross from close range.

Six minutes later, a minute into first-half stoppage time, Weber showed her lightning-quick pace once again to chase down Charlotte Grant’s long pass and add a composed finish to send Wanderers into the sheds three goals down.

It was almost four within five minutes of the restart but an offside flag denied Weber a treble after a goal-mouth scramble, before Huynh came to the rescue with a last-gasp tackle to prevent Dawber scoring a second and Newbon made herself big to take hat-trick honours away from Weber as she ran clear on goal.

Wanderers toiled and were handed a chance for some redemption when Hamilton was tripped by Matilda McNamara in the box. The American forward launched her 81st-minute spot-kick high into the night's sky.

Her compatriot Staab made amends in the 88th minute when she headed in Ella Mastrantonio's delivery to grab one back, and Western Sydney bundled in another goal on 93 minutes when Lais turned Kyra Cooney-Cross' corner into her own net. A final chance fell to Harrison but the Wanderers captain could not control her volley.

Adelaide were the competition's lowest scorers at the start of play with six goals in eight games. By the full-time whistle, the Lady Reds had halted a four-match losing run against Western Sydney and overtaken the Newcastle Jets to move up to eighth place in the Westfield W-League ladder.

SUNDAY PREVIEW: Melbourne Victory v Canberra United

How to watch

Round 12

Sydney FC v Western Sydney Wanderers
Saturday, 15 February 2020
Cromer Park
Kick-off: 4pm AEDT

Match Centre

Canberra United v Adelaide United
Sunday, 6 February 2020
McKellar Park
Kick-off: 4pm AEDT

Match Centre