United in will to make top-four

Sunday Mail - - SPORT - ROB GREEN­WOOD ROB GREEN­WOOD

THE cool heads and will-towin of Ade­laide United’s ex­pe­ri­enced im­ports will be cru­cial in the run to a po­ten­tial W-League fi­nals ap­pear­ance, coach Ivan Karlovic says.

Reds play­ers trav­elled to the cap­i­tal to face Can­berra United today, know­ing vic­tory would be a ma­jor step to­wards se­cur­ing a top-four fin­ish for the first time.

Karlovic said US cen­tre back Am­ber Brooks and Ice­landic mid­field en­forcer Gunnhildur Jons­dot­tir would again be key in lead­ing the way for his youth­ful squad.

“We don’t look too far ahead,” said Karlovic, who also praised eight-goal Amer­i­can striker Veron­ica Latkso and Ice­land in­ter­na­tional at­tacker Fan­ndis Fridriks­dot­tir.

“But the ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers do give us a boost and help the younger girls around them.

“The most im­por­tant thing they give us is the hunger and de­sire to win, which rubs off on to the rest of the playing group.

“We don’t ac­cept mediocrity and we’re al­ways striv­ing to be bet­ter and to get suc­cess.”

Fourth-placed Ade­laide sit one point clear of Bris­bane Roar, fifth, with four reg­u­lar cam­paign matches re­main­ing.

It spent last week in a mid­sea­son camp on the Gold Coast, where Karlovic said two friendlies against the Chi­nese national team had pro­vided valu­able game-time against qual­ity opposition.

He said fac­ing Can­berra at McKel­lar Park would be a chal­leng­ing as­sign­ment, de­spite Heather Gar­riock’s side lan­guish­ing six points adrift of a fi­nals berth.

“Can­berra have tra­di­tion­ally got a re­ally good home record,” said Karlovic, whose side recorded a 2-0 home win over the ACT side in Novem­ber. “It’s some­thing we want to change and we’re go­ing there to get three points and con­tinue on our path. IT is the mo­ment Ken Ilso feels he has truly ar­rived as an Ade­laide United player.

Twenty-one min­utes into Wed­nes­day’s home clash with bit­ter ri­val Melbourne Vic­tory, the Dan­ish for­ward sees cen­tre back Thomas Deng re­ceive the ball just in­side the visi­tors’ half.

In­stead of al­low­ing the onecap Soc­ceroo time to set­tle, Ilso shuts the de­fender down in a flash, forc­ing a turnover which sets him speed­ing off to­wards goal.

One touch and a com­posed fin­ish un­der Vic­tory goal­keeper Lawrence Thomas later, the ball is in the back of the net and the Reds are on their way to a sea­son-defin­ing A-League win.

“I’m al­ways happy when I score be­cause I want to score in ev­ery game,” said Ilso, a winter ar­rival from Malaysian club Pe­nang. “But it meant a lit­tle bit more due to it be­ing my first goal at Coop­ers (Sta­dium).

“I’ve been long­ing to score my first goal at the home ground in front of our fans and it’s even nicer when there’s a lot of peo­ple in the stands.

“I think it’s nor­mal, no mat­ter where you go, you will al­ways need some time to adapt to the league. But maybe it’s taken me a bit longer here than it has other places.

“On the other hand, I’ve been feel­ing re­ally wel­come and at home from the minute that I put my feet into Ade­laide United and on the field, I’m feel­ing like I’m get­ting there.”

Ilso’s mo­ment of in­stinct and qual­ity re­flected the in­gre­di­ents which de­liv­ered Ade­laide’s eye-catch­ing 2-0 suc­cess over the reign­ing cham­pion.

Marco Kurz’s men, led by in­spi­ra­tional cap­tain Isa­ias, pressed the Vic­tory re­lent­lessly from the kick-off, forc­ing it to repeatedly sur­ren­der pos­ses­sion. The hosts also cranked up the speed of their ball move­ment in tran­si­tion and pro­duced some much-needed cut­ting edge, as ev­i­denced by the sweep­ing move for Craig Good­win’s opener.

It was a far cry from four days ear­lier at Hind­marsh. Then the Reds had 32 shots and 61 per cent of the ball, but drew a blank in a frus­trat­ing goal­less draw with 10-man Welling­ton Phoenix.

Ilso said an ag­gres­sive mind­set would again be re­quired when United faced Sydney FC in an­other stern test at Ju­bilee Sta­dium.

“We promised each other be­fore the Vic­tory game that it was go­ing to be dif­fer­ent and we were go­ing to chal­lenge them from the first minute,” Ilso, 32, said. “We put them un­der a lot of pres­sure and it came to good op­por­tu­ni­ties and dan­ger­ous sit­u­a­tions.

“We have to bring that same ef­fort and bring a lot of en­ergy into this game against Sydney (today). Even though it’s an away game, we want to come and show that Ade­laide is not there for fun, we’re there to get three points.”

Ade­laide wel­comes back ex­pe­ri­enced mid­field­ers Vince Lia, from sus­pen­sion, and Mirko Boland, from the ham­string in­jury which has kept him side­lined since Novem­ber.

The fifth-placed Reds trail the Sky Blues by four points, but will meet an op­po­nent com­ing off a chas­ten­ing 3-1 loss to Perth Glory.

It is a chance for United to ex­tend its four-match un­beaten streak and make a state­ment in the first of three straight away out­ings in the next 10 days.

Picture: SARAH REED

MAK­ING HIS MARK: Ken Ilso heads the ball for Ade­laide United.

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