Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A -League, round 11 round-up

The four games

Melbourne Victory 3 v Central Coast Mariners 3; It's all here.

Newcastle Jets 1 v Sydney FC 1; once again it was a case of the two faces of Sydney FC, good in the first half, defending for their lives in the second. Not for the first time they took the lead, only to finally surrender to the excellent movement of the Jets, who deserved their late equaliser. Sydney were clearly up for this match, adopting a tough, in-your-face style, from the outset. Given the dearth of numbers, there was no suprise about Terry Butcher's line-up, only the formation, with Petrovski in the withdrawn role in behind Zdrilic, alongside Brosque and in front of Talay, with Middleby left and Zadkovich right. Sydney were pressing the Jets high, working incredibly hard, never allowing them time to settle on the ball at the back, in the middle and up front, and they were able to effectively disrupt the Jets passing game. Topor-Stanley and Bingley in central defence were physical but fair, and the Jets front three took over half an hour to settle. But before that Talay played a delightful ball which caught out Okon and Eagleton and gave Zdrilic plenty of space to control and finish. It was no less than the hosts and Zdrilic deserved, but when the Jets started to get Carle on the ball towards the end of the half, the signs were there they could claw their way back in. The second period was one way traffic, a gallant FC defending for the lives, trying to hang onto the points. Ultimately they were undone by their own inability to relieve pressure by stringing passes, such a critical requirement for effective football. As Okon took control in the final half an hour or so, stringing inch perfect passes, Tim Brown provided the fresh legs, something Sydney lacked, driving beyond an exhausted Zadkovich, honours shared.

New Zealand Knights 1 v Queensland Roar 0; given their positions on the ladder, the upset of the season, but the signs have been there for the Roar since the round seven trip to Melbourne, enigmatic to say the least. Paul Nevin has made a numbers of changes to his line-up over the weeks to try and find a winning formula, but his moves this week were the best, drafting in two players yet to taste A-League action, both highly influential. Wollongong Wolves central midfielder Dustin Wells was sensational by Knights standards, breaking up, driving forward, linking up play. He seemed like he'd been a part of this unit forever, teeing up the only goal, an early og by Ognenovski, with a wonderful overlap and cross down the right. Wells combined well with Gemmill to compete against the likes of Wedau, Seo and McKay in midfield. The other influential injection was that of goalkeeper Mark Paston, who looked assured and confident between the sticks, unlike the tentative Milosevic we have seen of late. On the other-side, Miron Bleiberg appears to be second-guessing himself, and there's little doubt after only a few weeks that he's struggling to replace Murdocca. Here he teamed up Seo and Wedau, with McKay on the left. But after being smashed in the middle for the opening quarter of the game, he made a tactical adjustment, taking off left back Buess, shifting Packer from right to left, pushing McKay infield and bringing Lynch on to make it a front three. But with Richter doing well on the right for NZ, Packer was pushed back, and the move made little impression. Certainly, McKay has looked less effective without Murdocca nearby. The other notable factor in this match was the Knights back four, with much improved performances all round. Certainly, the combination of Kovacevic/Bunce centrally looked much more organised than the Bunce/Emblen combo of late. Well done NZ, their most in-synch perfomance in a long time.

Adelaide United 3 v Perth Glory 2; like the Friday night fair in Melbourne, a wonderfully open spectacle early on, with the visitors profiting from an early give-away in midfield, Glavas playing in Saric for a neat finish across Bajic. It didn't last long however, a silly penalty conceded by Coyne for Veart to tuck-away. It was almost an invitation for Adelaide to start dominating, pushing back the Glory on both flanks through Spagnuolo and Dodd and creating space for the likes of Owens to drive forward. Soon he had United ahead and should have had another as Dodd became more involved. But the Glory hung on and soon had some luck at the other end, Glavas adjudged to have been pushed in the box by Alagich, Despotovski tucking away the final touch of the half and his final touch of the game, replaced due to an ankle injury. While Perth were light-on up front, they still threatened at step pieces, Bajic forced into a spectacular save from a Harnwell header, before they were punished at the other end for failing to clear things when substitute Kemp swopped and got lucky. While Perth applied the pressure, it was probably a fair result for Adelaide's domination of the first half.

Some other talking points

Muscat walks the line; lucky to escape further punishment for the Kosmina incident, not to mention a few others, there was no getting away with it this time for Muscat. With the Mariners standing up to his antics, it was a fascinating side-show to the end-to-end theatre going on.

Travelling contingent; more great work from the Sydney FC fans who braved the wet and cold and made the trip up to Newcastle to add real atmosphere and noise. A crowd of 15,000 had been hoped for, but the weather kept the numbers down, but those Sydney fans made some great noise in the first half. Not suprisingly, they were a little quieter in the second period as they willed their team to keep a clean sheet.

Failing to Roar; Bleiberg appears to have some real problems at Queensland and they need addressing quick-fast. Twice recently they have dominated at home, only to draw to both the Adelaide and the Mariners, while their work on the road has been hot and cold. Against the Knights they were cold early and paid the ultimately price, giving the Knights a rare lead which they defended with their lives.

Save of the week; at one stage it was going to Mark Paston for a terrific diving lunge to his right to tip away a bottom corner bound McCloughan header, but then Bajic produced a wonerful reflex stop early in the second half to keep out a Harnwell header, flinging himself airborne to his left. It was world-class work from the United custodian, one of the saves of the season.

Goal of the week; while it involved the use of a foul-throw, Allsopp's late equaliser gets it this week for some brilliant lead up play from man of the match Fred. After missing an open goal a little earlier on, he didn't go hiding, instead taking it upon himself to drive into the middle, cut back onto his right, leave Petrie for dead, and pick out a ball that few others would have seen, let alone executed. The finish from Allsopp was a gem, that of a man on top of the world.


Blogger Hamish said...

Sadly, I agree that the root of the Roar's worries are their "struggle to replace Murdocca." It was the Matty plus Murdocca combination, notwithstanding the work of Seo in particular, that made the Roar rock in the early season.

Don't write off the Roar yet. It takes time to rebuild an engine, and I think that has been Miron's conscious task in the last month.


Thu. Nov. 09, 07:08:00 am AEDT  

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