Adelaide United FC’s squad has arrived home from China after its superlative AFC Champions League victory over Shandong Luneng, but the Reds know the job is by no means complete.
With two wins from their opening two games, including Wednesday’s 2-0 result over Shandong in Jinan safely in their keeping, the Reds were weary but buoyant as they touched down in Adelaide this morning.
Having battled cold temperatures and a vocal Shandong home crowd to take all three points and sit top of Group H, the Reds have reason to enjoy their current position, and while he could not be more pleased with his side’s start to the competition, Coach Aurelio Vidmar is quick to highlight the fact that it is still early days.
“It’s great that we’ve managed to back up after our win against Pohang and get the second win, that was really important especially away from home, but there is still a long way to go,” Vidmar said.
“We can’t get carried away, we’ll enjoy it while we can in the next couple of days, and then we’ve got to get back on the track and make sure the game against Hiroshima is nothing less than three points.”
Confidence has been a major see-saw United has battled with in its rise to being unbeaten in the 2010 ACL. Having seen it drop to a low point during the Hyundai A-League season, the confidence among the squad now continues to build, and Vidmar admits the belief has been there that the results would come.
After a forgettable Hyundai A-League campaign, many could not have believed United to be a serious threat once the AFC Champions League began, but Vidmar knew better.
“We were really confident going into the last four weeks of the Hyundai A-League, we certainly saw the wheel starting to turn and that was true when we won the last two games of the A-League, so we were going into the Pohang game in a pretty confident mood,” Vidmar said.
“Confidence is a big thing in sport and there’s certainly a fair bit of that in the change room at the moment, so I’m really pleased with the way we went about it on Wednesday, we’ll enjoy it and now just focus on how we’re going to beat Hiroshima.”
United face Japan’s Sanfrecce Hiroshima, a club Vidmar played with during his career at Hindmarsh Stadium on Wednesday week, and just as it was in the lead up to the match against Shandong, not being satisfied with what they have done so far, is again going to be a major focus for the Reds.
“We spoke about complacency with this game against Shandong, and we’re certainly going to raise that issue again before the Hiroshima game, because as we all know in sport, it has a funny way of slapping you back in the face,” Vidmar said.
“So we’ll enjoy it (the win) but we can’t get carried away because two wins is great but we still haven’t qualified for the second round and that’s our goal.”
Another enjoying the Reds’ success is Lucas Pantelis, the midfielder with more than one reason to celebrate on his return home, as he turns 28 today.
Pantelis provided the assist for striker Sergio van Dijk to score the opener, and the United vice-captain is eager to continue being part of United’s Asian charge.
“I’m obviously happy about that, but most importantly what we achieved on Wednesday night was probably the best present I could ask for,” Pantelis said.
“There’s no lie we had a pretty rough season. Finishing bottom of the A-League, not too many people expected us to start so well in the ACL, but we knew within ourselves that we had it in us.”
“This is our third (ACL) campaign so we know what to expect which I think has really helped us, and also we want to give something back to our fans, they’ve stuck by us through thick and thin with some bad results, and we want to do it for them as well as us.”
The Reds host Sanfrecce Hiroshima at Hindmarsh Stadium on Wednesday 24 March 2010 (Kick-Off 7.30pm ACDT). Tickets are available now through Ticketek (call 132 849, online at www.ticketek.com.au).