Monday, October 09, 2006

A-League, round seven round-up

The four games

Adelaide United 3 v Central Coast Mariners 1; a crucial fixture for two teams lingering mid-table, it featured the return home of Mori and the promise of another Hindmarsh goal or two from Frogger after his hat-trick there for Perth last season. Once again he delivered with a clinical equaliser, but it wasn’t enough for the Mariners, their away form going from bad to worse (four losses in five trips) as they were out-lasted by a freshened up Adelaide. Only four days after their public holiday Monday loss to Sydney, Kosmina drafted in a few players yet to see any action this season, Kristian Rees, Matthew Kemp and Adam van Dommele, with Aaron Goulding rested, Dodd on international duty and Qu and Rech still missing. Kosmina accommodated Rees by shifting to a back three for the first time this season, with Costanzo split by Valkanis and Rees. In midfield he partnered Aloisi with Owens, flanked by Kemp on the right and Spagnuolo on the left. Up front he started Veart as the target man, flanked by Petta and Burns either side. In the first half the changes failed to make much impact as the visitors tried to exploit the space left in the right and left back positions. While the Mariners started well, McKinna had strangely left Pondeljak on the bench for the second week straight, and with Hutchinson also warming the bench, they suffered from a lack of creativity around the box, particularly with Kwasnik struggling to get his A-League career going. If Pondeljak is struggling with injury, a possibility given he spent a chunk of the pre-season on the sidelines, it would seem strange to include him in the squad. Given he is in the squad and the Mariners are struggling, it seems strange he isn’t starting. Soon enough the hosts were on top, with Kemp and Petta doubling-up on the right to give the struggling left side of Tomasevic and Brown a torrid time. With Veart, Burns and Owens also becoming more influential after the break, Central Coast were exposed time and again, particularly down the left, only the excellent glove-work of Vukovic keeping them alive. The Mariners continue to look frustratingly slow in defence, and lacking combination all over the pitch. The fluid and dynamic team of last season now looks ragged and aging, no chance of keeping up with the sprightly Burns and Owens towards the end.

Perth Glory 1 v New Zealand Knights 0; a classic case of two halves, it was Perth who dominated the first, only for the Knights to play their most enterprising football of the season in the second, which ultimately wasn’t enough to earn them a share of the points their play probably deserved. Perth, with Despotovski and Young combining well, looked dangerous in the first half, Lazaridis’ replacement Mimi Saric looking lively down the left as Bertos dazzled down the right. While Despotovski was lucky not to be called back for a foul on Frank Van Eijs in the build to the only goal, his work to set up Young’s header was typical Despotovski, deceptive and measured. After being correctly ruled offside just before the break (read more below), the Perth veteran beat the trap after the break, only to be chopped down by Sime Kovacevic, referee Craig Zetter ignoring what looked a legitimate penalty. The close shave prompted the Knights to life, and for the first time in a long time, they pressed out of defence, narrowing the space between their defensive line and their attackers. Playing more compact, they suddenly looked more structured and their interplay improved, managing to pin Perth back and create the odd opening. Only a brilliant Petkovic save denied Johnson from a free-kick, before Gemmill got on the end of a couple of flick-ons, only to volley straight at Petkovic. Hardly the greatest game of the season, it was good to at least see the Knights having a real go, on a decent pitch.

Sydney FC 1 v Queensland Roar 1; a week, as they say, is a long time in football. Last week, away to Melbourne, Bleiberg got it all wrong, leaving Reinaldo at home, shifting Ognenovski into midfield and relegating Mass Murdocca to the bench. Against Adelaide, Butcher got it all right, playing with width in a 4-2-3-1 formation that stretched Adelaide through Zadkovich and Brosque and reminded us of the quality that Sydney produced through their finals runs last season. This week both made changes, Bleiberg getting it right, playing his buzzers in midfield and instructing ‘Mass and Matt’ to shut the supply to Carbone and his defenders to not allow Carbone any room to turn. He also re-introduced Reinaldo up front, and the big Brazilian was such an instrumental figure in the first half that Bingley, in particular, and Rudan were struggling to cope. Indeed, it was Reinaldo who draw a foul out of McFlynn, allowing Dilevski to sneak a free-kick between Bingley’s legs and past Bolton’s near post. Sydney was struggling not only with the fluky conditions, but with their own narrowness. Missing Milligan and Brosque to the Socceroos, Butcher tinkered with his formation, sending Sydney back to the narrow template that dogged their play between rounds two to five. Pushing Topor-Stanley into a tight left midfield role and Zadkovich infield on the right, Sydney were suddenly bereft of the width that made them look so impressive last week. The thought lingered; why change a winning formula? Was it simply to accommodate Topor-Stanley and Ceccoli in the same 11? One solution may have seen Butcher stick with last week’s system by interchanging Corica and Carbone in Brosque’s left-sided role and starting Talay alongside McFlynn as a direct replacement for Milligan. Instead Sydney looked all over the place and didn’t get into the game till after 30 minutes, when Corica started to find a bit of room as Queensland focused on Carbone. In injury time, Ceccoli restored parity with a bullet and Sydney could breathe. The second half was better for the hosts as Butcher re-worked his unit, tightening up on the likes of Reinaldo, Murdocca and Dilevski, and in the end only Sydney looked like it wanted to win. While understandable given they were away from home and battling to retain their second spot, Bleiberg’s attitude was a touch disappointing, as Sydney appeared there for the taking if the Roar had the gumption to go for it. While it was a point on the road, their domination of the first period perhaps warranted more, but Sydney at least did well to fight back.

Newcastle Jets 0 v Melbourne Victory 2; the word filtering from Newcastle is that the Jets were really up for this match, keen to take the first points off Melbourne, and the truth is their play demonstrated this desire. Pity for them is that the result didn’t, sunk by two late Allsopp goals on the counter as they became more and more frustrated by their inability to find the back of the net. There is something about this Melbourne team that continues to impress, as resolute when they aren’t playing well as they are radiant when things are flowing. Last week we saw the radiant Melbourne, this week the resolute version, digging in at the back, superbly marshaled by Vargas, with able support from Storey, Leijer and Piorkowski. It is quite remarkable that for the opening third of the season they have remained unchanged at the back, but this will change next week as Leijer serves a suspension for his fourth yellow. Newcastle, with Carle buzzing around, Durante getting some confidence back, Thompson flowing as a right-wingback and newcomer Tim Brown looking a handy addition in midfield, played some wonderfully committed football, but couldn’t blow the Victory house down. Inevitably the mistake came, Brown punished for giving the ball away to Caceres, who found Allsopp via Eagleton. Still Newcastle came, fluffing a couple of decent chances through either wasteful finishing or good closing down from Melbourne, which is how the Victory launched their brilliant sealer (described below as the goal of the week). It was cruel on the hosts who just can’t take a trick and the word is the manager’s role under scrutiny. At the other end of the table, confidence is flowing, seven from seven and counting.

Some other talking points

Alert assistant; not sure which of the two it was, but the assistant who correctly flagged Despotovski offside late in the first half when there was only one defender between he and the goal, take a bow. It’s not everyday we rush to pat an official on the back, but the offside rule is clear in that there needs to be two players between the player attempting to score and the goal for it to stand. With Knights keeper Turnbull attempting to shut down Sekulovski’s shot, it was a quick and correct call. Pity for Perth the referee Craig Zetter wasn’t as alert as his official a minute into the second period when Despotovski was brought down from behind by Sime Kovacevic, a strong penalty claim turned down.

Don’t pull the carpet out from under Newcastle; while not much is going right for the Jets, with a terrible crowd yesterday, at least they’re responsible for arguable the best domestic pitch in Australian football history. Full credit to the ground staff at Energy Australia for the carpet-like pitch, which looks a treat and at least gives the likes of Carle and Rodriguez the opportunity to play the football they enjoy. One particular piece of Carle trickery, when the Jets were searching for an equaliser, was one of the moves of the season. When Carle teased both Vargas and Piorkowski inside the box, he played a delightful back-heel that nutmeged Piorkowski and allowed Matt Thompson to clip a ball to the back post for Bridge, who cushioned a header towards the unmarked Rodriguez. The Victory defence swooped to deny him what would have been one of the goals of the season.

Latino fair; speaking of Carle and Rodriguez, they were just one of a seven players of South American extraction on show at Energy Australia yesterday. Joining them were the traveling Brazilian trio of Fred, Claudinho and Alessandro, as well as the Victory’s local South American’s, Chilean Vargas and Argentine Caceres. While the blustery and overcast conditions were hardly akin to what the Brazilians might expect back home, there were some nice touches, including the abovementioned Carle piece of magic and Vargas’ sublime release with the outside of the right foot for the sealer.

Goal of the week; nine goals in total and some really good ones including Burns’s sealer on Friday night when he kept his composure after being released by Veart, Dilevski’s free-kick that snuck under Bingley and past Bolton and Ceccoli’s left peg thunderbolt that rescued the game for Sydney, but Allsopp’s gets it for his second thanks to a delightful release from Vargas, who picked up a second ball on the edge of his box and launched it with the outside of his right foot in the direction of Allsopp. Shadowing the ball as it rolled towards the Jets keeper, he waited for Kennedy to commit before dinking it over him with his first touch.

Save of the week; again, there were plenty of good ones this weekend, with Petkovic fully flung to his left to keep out a Richard Johnson free-kick and Vukovic making a number of good stops, his best to keep out a Greg Owens grass-burner, but for the save of the week we go back to the first stop, Robert Bajic diving to his left to keep out an early O’Grady volley that looked headed for the bottom corner. Surely he couldn’t have been expecting a volley, from a defender, from that far out, sharp work.

One round down, two to go. Stay tuned, later in the week I’ll bring you a comprehensive report card on the first third of the season.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mass and Matt, i like it!

Tue. Oct. 10, 01:53:00 pm AEST  
Blogger john said...

Sydney were very lucky.

Rudan earned two yellow cards but only got one. Without Rudan to chop down the opposition Sydney would look very thin.

And what did Reinaldo get a yellow for - it was Sydney that took the offside free kick before the ref's whistle?

Tue. Oct. 10, 06:32:00 pm AEST  

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