Wednesday, October 18, 2006

A -League, round eight round-up

The four games

Central Coast Mariners 3 v Sydney FC 1; not sure what it is about this fixture, perhaps it's the geographical proximity or the bling v working-class thing that had such an airing in the build up to last year's grand-final, but it inevitably turns on some excellent football and a great atmosphere, and once again it didn't disappoint at Bluetongue. Played in front of an excellent 11,000 odd crowd made up of a significant travelling contingent, it was a vital clash for both sides; the Mariners desperate for its first home win, Sydney under pressure to produce a performance. This time it was the hosts who delivered, but only after Carbone had provided another gem from the set piece that Vukovic may have done better with. Soon enough the Mariners were into stride, defending higher up the pitch than they have been, squeezing Sydney deep in their own half. It allowed the Mariners to gain an ascendancy on the flanks, with Pondeljak and Petrie enjoying more room than they have for some time. Indeed, as the first half wore on, Pondeljak was giving Ceccoli a harder time than he has had since facing up to Butcher a few weeks back. When Pondeljak plays well, so do the Mariners, and with Mori and Hutchinson looking lively up front, it was no suprise when they grabbed an equaliser. The second period was dominant from the Mariners, full of desire, but they had to survive one nervy moment when Brosque looked to be brought down by Clark. With Carbone hobbling off, Sydney were struggling, slipping up to present Mori his chances. As he's proved time after time, he rarely needs a second invitation, and with great delivery from Petrie, Sydney were floored.

Newcastle Jets 3 v New Zealand Knights 0; our first chance to have a look at Garry van Egmond, who set out his stall in 3-4-3, with Griffiths and Coveny back to support Rodriguez up front. In truth, this three man forward line was too muchy for the Knights, who started with three at the back and were being torn apart out wide. Only poor finishing kept them in the game, but then Paul Nevin made a decent tactical adjustment, taking off a central defender (Kovacevic) and going to back four by dropping Beazley and Hickey into fullback roles. It did contain the Jets for a while, but with new man Campbell Banks unable to hold the ball up up front, that's all they were doing - biding time. When the energetic White and Casey came on early in the second half, it provided the Knights with more impetus up front, and the Jets had to rely on some good work from Okon and Kennedy to keep them level. The Jets appeared weighed down by their own wastefulness, particularly from Rodriguez, but they showed good patience and temperament to keep knocking. With Musalik, Thompson and Carle in control of the middle, eventually the door opened, North grabbing their first 'first goal' of the season, allowing them to relax and play some less 'stressed' stuff. Soon enough they were being rewarded for their fluency, Musalik grabbing a peach before Rodriguez finally grabbed his piece. The Knights go from bad to worse, the Jets finally rewarded for some decent play.

Melbourne Victory 0 v Adelaide United 1; a thriller at the Dome, played in front of 32,000 captivated fans and countless more on Fox. Undoubtedly one of the games of the season, it will be remembered for the late sideline scuffle between two of the firebrands of Oz football, but instead could well be a prelude to some more serious stuff later in the season. Right from the outset it was clear these two sides have a healthy appetite for each other, with the contest exploding after only a few minutes. It seemed Adelaide were up for it, clearly intent on not being pushed around by a Melbourne midfield that has had its way through the first phase of games. As much could be told by the make-up of Kosmina's team, Costanzo moved into central midfield for the first time this season, a master-stroke seemingly designed to give United a physical edge to compete with Muscat and Brebner. Soon enough Costanzo and Aloisi were biting in, particuarly at Fred, obviously identified as Melbourne's biggest threat. Playing on the edge, Adelaide were taking it to the comp front runners and a physcial yet highly technical contest ensued. Melbourne hit back, Muscat rallying his men and showing they aren't easily initimated. It was two heavyweights going for it, just brilliant entertainment. Soon enough the hosts got on top, and with their defence in control, always looked the likeliest to score, exposing Adelaide's defence the more the game went on. But United dug in, particularly thanks to some brilliant defending from Rees and a couple of great Bajic saves, eventually picking off the Victory on the counter thanks to a great early release from Bajic, a brilliant carry from Burns, nice movement off the ball from Qu and a sublime run and finish from Owens, who gallopped some 80 metres to burn the Victory. The scuffle that ensued was simply a case of two teams with a serious desire to succeed, and if they continue producing football of this order, they just might.

Perth Glory 1 v Queensland Roar 2; celebrating 10 years, the Glory got off to a flying start, Willis entering the festive mood with an early gift to Young. But the Roar took over from there, Milicic levelling things with a neat cut-back and shape around Petkovic. With Vidosic buzzing around and Reinaldo offering the target, Queensland had the better moments, but Perth always looked a threat whenever they shifted it left to Lazaridis, who was giving McLaren a working over with his drive and pace. Miron Bleiberg adjusted things at the break, swapping McLaren with Seo, and sure enough the Korean was able to control the Socceroos great. Suddenly Queensland's back-four looked more solid, and when Reinaldo got past Tarka and delivered a ball into the near post, Vidosic was too sharp for the big Perth central defence. Confident its two monsters in central defence, Ognenovski and McCloughan, could defend the lead, the Roar sat back, and as much as Perth tried, there was no result to celebrate their anniversary.

Some other talking points

Great crowds and atmosphere; from the freindly banter between the Marinators and Cove on Friday night in Gosford to the intense feeling on Sunday afternoon at the Dome to the party mood in Perth to celebrate the Glory's 10 years of existence, it was a beautiful week for most fans in the A-League. Even the poor Jets faithful finally had something to dance about.

More than they bargained for; when they were ordered in for a shower post their 3-1 loss on Friday night, Sydney players wouldn't have known they'd be in for a spray from the boss, but Terry Butcher is reported to have let them have it. If it doesn't draw a reaction for this Saturday night's Melbourne blockbuster, than nothing will.

Milton misfire; if at first you don't succeed, try and try again. Jets Colombian Rodriguez certainly lived up the mantra, being denied time and time again, only to finally get himself on the scoresheet in stoppages. At the very least it was good to see he didn't go hiding.

Save of the week; speaking of Rodriguez, he was involved in what at one stage looked like the save of the week. Midway through the first half he had what looked the easiest of tap-ins, only from Darren Beazley to through himself at the ball and deny him. Looked like a clear winner until Rob Bajic produced yet anither fine save, sharp down to his left to deny a Muscat free-kicj that he saw late and looked headed for the corner. In the context of the game and their season, one of the gems.

Goal of the week; speaking of gems, there were plenty of them this week, including Carbone's lovely placed free-kick, a rarity in the A-League, Milicic's precision turn and finish and Musalik's long-range bomb against the Knights, but I'm giving it to Greg Owens for the ruthlessness of Adelaide's counter-attack, never easy against such a disciplined and organised Melbourne defence. Catching a free-kick, Bajic released it early into central midfield for Burns to shake off one challenge on the halfway line before carrying the ball 40 metres through the middle, waiting for Qu to create the space for Owens, who sumptuously clipped it over Theoklitos, just beautiful. Quick and efficient, it was in keeping with the quality of the match. Oh, and it keeps the competition alive, good news for most.


Blogger Hamish said...

With respect Tony, don't we get a Team of the Weak Round 8? We have had a bit of bonus material, so I guess I can forgive you, but I do look forward to it each week. It's been really helpful for me to get familiar with the stars accross the A-League.

Cheers Tony.

Fri. Oct. 20, 11:03:00 pm AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

It's been a work in progress Hamish...

Coming shortly

Sat. Oct. 21, 08:50:00 am AEST  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

It's up Hamish, better late than never.

Sat. Oct. 21, 09:09:00 am AEST  
Blogger Hamish said...

Thanks mate. You've given us a bit of reading I notice for the Saturday afternoon.

Sat. Oct. 21, 12:53:00 pm AEST  

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