Sunday, November 19, 2006

A-League, round 13 round-up

The four games

Queensland 0 v Melbourne 2; the most interesting aspect of this game would be to see how the new man in charge at the Roar, Frank Farina, would shape his team up and how the players would react to having a new boss. Not surprisingly, Farina opted for the 4-4-2 that he used for most of his Socceroos reign (towards the end of his time in charge he tinkered with various adaptations of the 4-5-1) and again started with a central defender (Gibson) in the holding role central midfield, another hallmark of his work with the Roos. Here he relegated McLaren to the bench and restored Gibson to the team for the first time in what seems an eternity (he failed to grasp his chance in what was probably a role he wasn't quite ready for), pushing Seo out to right back and using two wide men in Vidosic (left) and Dilevski (right) to try and stretch the Victory and supply Reinaldo and Milicic. All it did was create a mountain of space in central midfield for McKay and Gibson to try and cope with Muscat, Brebner and Fred. The Roar were outnumbered, and with Thompson and Allsopp pushing Ognenvoski and McCloughan further back with their pace, Gibson and McKay were on a hiding to nothing. As hard as they tried, and they showed plenty of committment, the Victory were able to control the game, all over the pitch. At the back they were too solid, in midfield they linked up well and up front they always looked likely. Both goals came from defensive blunders, a fair sign that Farina's work should be centred on organisation. While the Roar huffed and puffed, they rarely used their heads. This is Farina's biggest challenge, to get the Roar functioning as a spirited unit, and his focus needs to be on lifting the confidence and morale. Too often heads dropped on Friday. It's no disgrace to lose to a Melbourne side that has now won six away on the trot, but it won't get any easier against a Sydney side that is finally coming good.

Perth 2 v Newcastle 1; speaking of spirited, this was another performance befitting the description from the hosts. After last week's amazing defensive effort in Melbourne, spirits must have been high mid-week. Yes, they'd lost, but a perfomance like that, without big names like Lazaridis, Colosimo, Petkovic and Despotovski tends to lift teams. So it proved on Saturday where the Glory started brilliantly. Ron Smith had snuck a major suprise in his line up by starting Harnwell up front alongside Young. The message was clear - Perth were going to test the Jets with a direct approach to try and expose a physical weakness in central defence (and in goal) where Okon and Durante (and Kennedy) aren't always comfortable in dealing with the high ball. With Colosimo and Lazaridis back, Perth went about getting the ball wide, both to Bertos and Lazaridis, and their mission was to find the front two. Not surprisingly, it worked a treat, and the Glory were able to pick up numerous second balls off the back of hitting Young and Harnwell early. But for some good scrabbling, a couple of good saves, and plenty of luck, the Glory would have had their opener long before Harnwell out-jumped Okon from a Bertos cross. Perth should have killed the game off then and there, but proceeded to miss numerous chances, letting the lethargic Jets back into it. When Carle started getting his foot on the ball and Rodriguez came off the bench, suddenly the Glory looked likely to pay for their wastefulness. While Griffiths' fall looked theatrical, it made up for an incorrect call in the first half, when Angelo Nardi should have awarded Coveny a penalty for a late Tomich challenge (instead he got a yellow card for diving). Perth seemed to be affected by the penalty decision and started to look nervy, but up popped Glavas, this most natural born of finishers, with the winner with the last kick of the game, impressively taken. It was no less than the hosts deserved, and keeps them right in the mix.

New Zealand 0 v Central Coast 2; new manager, new ideas and new attitude, at least for the first 45. That was the story for the Knights, who competed well early on, even creating the two or three best efforts of the half, including one from new striker Alen Marcina, who looked lively alongside White. They weren't the only changes, Turnbull getting in ahead of Paston between the sticks and Emblen starting in central midfield, where he played his best football last year before getting injured midway through the season. While they competed in the first half and early in the second, soon enough the Mariners took control, especially after the Knights got caught high and square, allowing Mori acres for the go-ahead. With the Knights dropping their heads, it was an opportunity for McKinna to give Mrdja a 20 minute hit-out, which he used to great effect, bagging his first A-League goal and creating himself a couple of other chances.

Sydney 2 v Adelaide 1; make no mistake, these two teams aren't best of friends. This was another Sydney/Adelaide clash full of talking points and fiesty moments, but not for the first hour, where the football won out. With all hands back on deck, the most fascinating aspect in the build-up was who Terry Butcher would leave out. He made some interesting choices, relegating Zadkovich altogether, pushing Petrovski and Brosque to the bench and bringing in four guys who haven't seen much action of late, Carney, Corica, McFlynn and Milligan, the latter in central defence, the position he looked most comfortable in last year. While they conceded one early to a sloppy Talay mistake, soon enough the likes of Rudan, Corica and Carney were running the show, getting on top of Veart, Aloisi, Costanzo and Goulding. Cleverly, as is becoming the Sydney way, they pressed Adelaide high, never allowing them to find Spagnuolo and Dodd out wide, such a vital avenue for Adelaide. When Adelaide play well, it is invariably when they control the flanks. But Sydney never allowed this to happen, Fyfe and Ceccoli pressing on Spagnuolo and Dodd, while Carney and Middleby kept Goulding and Alagich busy. It meant that Rech and Veart were starved of the ball, making Kosmina's decision not to start with Owens (even at right back) all the more puzzling. Sydney's two goals, despite the first one looking dicey, were reward for their control, before the match lost all its rythmn in the second period, ensuring Adelaide had little chance of sneaking back into it.

Some other moments

Goal of the week; for once, there weren't too many breathtaking ones, but for sheer importance, hard to go past Luka Glavas's 94 th minute gem against the Jets. After some wonderful dribbling from Bertos across the field, Glavas had time and space at the top of the Jets box, but did he have the composure? Did he what, side-footing past Kennedy with the same left peg he scored with against Sydney a few weeks back. It was the finish of an efficient striker, more good work from the man who bagged four in the NSW premier league grand final.

Save of the week; same match, but much earlier. The Glory were on fire in the first half, peppering the Jets goal. One effort looked destined for the back post, only for defender Andrew Durante to miraculously clear it from under his post with the back of his head. It wasn't a keeper, but it was a save, an amazing one at that.


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