Monday, November 27, 2006

A -League, round 14 round-up

The four games

Sydney 3 v Queensland 0; most of it is here, but beyond that the most newsworthy aspect was that Terry Butcher was able to pick the same starting 11 for the first time this season, and it showed, Sydney producing some in-synch football after Gibson's send off, combining beautifully through the middle and down the flanks, with the attacking trio of Middleby (left), Corica and Carney at the heart of much that was good for them. Only the brilliant shot-stopping of Reddy kept the score respectable as Sydney carved out chance after chance, burning both Packer (right) and Buess (left) down the flanks. No surprise that all three goals came from good action out wide, but Farina some-what played into Sydney' s hands after the send-off by taking off a striker and throwing on Buess, one of the many overseas underacheivers brought into the league. Suddenly Queensland had no attacking outlet as Mori and Milicic were isolated from the rest of the team. Sydney were simply too solid (witness the lack of work for the defence and Bolton) and stretched the Roar by keeping possession and getting it wide. No surprise they found so many gaps.

Central Coast 2 v Adelaide 0; the pre-game discussion was all about a legendary Brazilian striker gunning for his 1000th goal and how John Kosmina would accomodate him in his formation. He ended up sticking with pretty much the same formula of late, deploying Romario through the middle, Rech supporting from behind, with Spagnuolo (left) and Dodd on the flanks. Veart, such an influence up front of late, was pushed into central midfield alongside Aloisi, forcing Costanzo into central defence alongside Rees, meaning Valkanis was strangely playing as a left back. It meant that Burns was the unlucky one to miss an opportunity to start alongside Romario. In truth, United looked decent enough early, and while the tiny front man didn't have too many touches on the ball, everything he did was simply and efficient, only losing one ball in the first period. But the neutral fans had come to see his finishing, and when Dodd turned an Aloisi short free-kick across the goals, it seemed we'd get our treat, but O'Sullivan made a brilliant lunging tackle as Romario reacted slower than in his heyday. It was more of the same early in the second period as the great predator pounced, almost in slow motion, on a mistake by Jedinak and Vidmar, only for Vukovic to stay on his feet. Adelaide had deserved a goal, perhaps moreso after the impressive Spagnuolo had raced beyond O'Sullivan and drawn what looked at least a foul, if not more. It wasn't to be as the Mariners raced down the other end, McMaster finding a flying Aussie predator in Nick Mrdja, starting for the first time in place of the departed Mori, Kwasnik picking up the pieces from a Bajic save. United heads dropped, even moreso a couple of minutes later when the Mariners again found themselves on the right, this time Jedinak sending a deep cross for Petrie to power home. It was game, set and match, the Mariners prepared to sit deep and absorb, Romario and his new mates unable to unlock the defence. It was a valuable home victory, even if it did spoil the samba party to some degree.

Melbourne 0 v Newcastle 1; another cracker at the Dome, one of the best games of the season, this was a high quality technical and tactical contest between two in form teams having a real go at each other. Defending deep, there was plenty of room in midfield for both teams, except from Carle, who had Pantelidis as a surprise shadow for the duration of the game. It was a gamble by Ernie Merrick to try and mark the influential playmaker out of the game, and for over 45 minutes it worked, Carle relatively quiet as the Victory carved out a couple of the best openings of the half, denied by replacement keeper Ivan Necevski, quick off his line. While Carle was quiet early on, Griffiths wasn't, producing an audacious chip that almost caught out Galekovic and generally giving the Melbourne left and Merrick much to ponder. It forced a re-shuffle which saw Alessandro introduced for Caceres. How times change. Earlier in the year it was the other way around, Alessandro considered the defensive weakness. This was a brilliant contest, both on the pitch and in the dug-out, two teams with much belief trying to strike a dagger. Melbourne's front three of Fred, Allsopp and Thompson looked likely, but as the match grew, so did the influence of Kohler and Musalik in the middle over Brebner and a disappointing Sarkies. Soon enough Carle was having his usual infleunce, holding off Pantelidis and showing the strength and workrate which have characterised his season to date. Before long he clipped a wonderful ball into the path of Rodriguez, catching out Pantelidis, Leijer, Vargas and Galekovic with one subtle stroke of the left peg. From there it was all the Jets, a wonderful win which shows they have the heart to go with flair. Gary van Egmond has done some wonderful things since taking over, but this was a win which could leave a few mental scars for the competition front-runners and add even further impetus to the Jets season.

Perth 4 v New Zealand 1; after last week's successful experiment involving Harnwell as the focal point of their attack, Ron Smith did it again, trying to take advantage of his aerial ability against a poor Knights defence. But is was the visitors, with Canadian Marcina lively up front, who unlocked the Perth defence first, Hickey drifting infield and holding off Coyne. It was a massive surprise, but soon enough the Knights dug their own hole, conceeding less than 10 minutes later and then having Jonas Salley sent off no sooner than he was he back in the side. Hard enough with even numbers let alone with one less, cue for the Glory to totally dominate, Harnwell grabbing a remarkable hat-trick before Despotovski bagged his share off the bench. Two on the trot since a confidence boosting performance in Melbourne and the Glory are showing they have the spirit to fight all the way.

Some of the other talking points

Crowd watch; a decent turn-up in Gosford for the Romario experiment but still a fair way short of the full house that was hoped for. More disappointing was the night before, where only 12,000 odd where on hand to see Sydney's third consecutive win. While their early season form and the loss of Dwight-all-night may have played some role, no doubt the hike in ticket prices since season one has played a role ($23 for a general admission adult ticket). Throw in the cost of parking (or public transport prices) and the cost of a couple of beers and a bite and it adds up to an expensive night out. My understanding is that a ticket to a Queensland Roar game, in comparison, contains the cost of public transport. Melbourne meanwhile go from strength to strength with another 27,000 plus witnessing another Dome cracker, with a potential A-League record on the cards when Sydney go south in a fortnight.

Save of the week; you could almost fill a catalogue from Liam Reddy alone, such was his performance in the Sydney clash. Ivan Necevski also made two amazing stops on debut, coming sharply off his line to thwart Alessandro and Allsopp, while Mark Paston, back between the sticks, produced an acrobatic save to his right from a Despotovski free-kick. But it's hard to go past Reddy, and I'm giving it to him for his first major save, a brilliant reaction sharp down to his right after a Carney shot had been deflected, seemingly headed for the corner. Even though his air-bourne tip over from a Corica volley a short time later looked more spectacular, the first was pure reaction.

Goal of the week; Sydney scored a cracker on Friday night when Corica attacked a Middleby cross, while Carle's ball into Rodriguez and Hickey's finish were worthy of a mention, but I'm giving goal of the week to the hat-trick hero Harnwell for his first. From a Kovacevic long free kick, Harnwell won the header and directed it towards Young, who chested it down for Lazaridis on the edge of the box. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed Harnwell continue his run and found him with a first time square ball into space, which the skipper side-footed past Paston. While it was direct, it was neat inter-play around the box.


Blogger Hamish said...

If you pre-purchase a ticket to a home Queensland Roar game, it effectively is a public transport ticket to and from the game, from as far away as the Gold Coast, Ipswich and Caboolture if you catch the train. Even if you buy your game ticket at the gate, it is at least your ticket home.

I don't know how all this was negotiated, but it works, and I think everyone benefits. It's at least a marginal factor in Queensland getting decent crowds.

Thanks again for your professional level commentary Tony-of-the-Round-Balls.

Tue Nov 28, 07:14:00 am AEDT  
Anonymous wayne said...

What's public transport? (central coast humour)

Tue Nov 28, 03:32:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger Jaza said...

Aye Suncorp was built with the public transport factor intact, like most good new stadiums.

Tue Nov 28, 04:20:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous wayne said...

Sorry Jaz, I forgot the trains that drop you off right outside Bluetongue, like most good new stadiums (forgot my medication that day). Tony, from a foxtel-less fan, your coverage is invaluable.

Wed Nov 29, 05:22:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

hamish, jaza and wayne, thanks for your interest and comments...

Wayne, I'll stay right out of the central coast humour stuff although I do love going up there for the football. My favourite football stadium, just pristine with the palm trees and water, although I've yet to make it to Suncorp.

Hamish and Jaza, thanks for the word on the Roar situation. A friend who regularly attends the Roar games told me about the free transport thing, which I reckon is an excellent little add-on and incentive for people to turn up.

I know Sydney lost some 6mil last season, but just thought they were biting off a little more than they could chew by upping the tix after season one.

And remember last year there were numerous give-aways through the smh and the like, boosting attendance and giving people and incentive to go.

While the fear for Sydney is that NZ and Perth aren't the biggest drawing teams, if the winning momentum continues, they might just be able to pull a couple of monster finals gates.

Wed Nov 29, 09:02:00 pm AEDT  
Anonymous wayne said...

It is a beautiful stadium to watch football in, I had a South American from Sydney (sic) sit next to me on the night, and he was pretty jealous too. Nice fella, plays third division or something and knows Leo Carle (nic's brother who didnt quite make the CCM squad lst year). As soon as Romario was subbed, he and his mates were out of there. I really felt for the guy and the guy in the Corinthians top in frnt of me - they squealled every time the big R got the ball, and had to put up with my rather unerudite boasting on the two occasions that Danny boy shot stopped him 1 on know the drill, "next Australian keeper there",blah blah. We are lucky to be there. BTW, you have a new blogging compatriate, please feel free to( in the words of a one hit wonder),"come up and see me, make me smile" are partly to blame, after all.

Fri Dec 01, 12:29:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger john said...

I understand that transport package is a requirement for Lang Park (Broncos - (plus I understand that the new team the Titans will play some home games there) rugby league and Reds - rugby union) and I think also now for the Gabba - Bulls & Australia cricket and Lions - AFL. It is a reponse to the city location of the venues - that are also surrounded by residences.

Its propbably the easist venue to get to in Australia from a all city suburbs perspective. And shows when, Adelaide with all their silverware, get a record crowd at 16,000.

When the Roar finally get a winning team, and they will one day, you can expect crowds of 30,000 and up to capacity of 49,000 for big games.

Brisbane people love live sport. Its population of nearly 1 million is upstaging Sydney (nearly 4?).

Fri Dec 01, 10:39:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger john said...

Did anyone just see Adelaide v Melbourne? What a game. Mark Shields was right with send off one (Adelaide keeper holding the ball decided to kick Fred) but was he with Bremner? I was left thinking that the Aloisi was tackling Bremner not the other way round. Leveled up the game for a while. And allowed Romanio to miss two goals - that some of the top Australians would have got. Melb 3-1 for those without Foxtel.

Fri Dec 01, 10:46:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Wayne and John, thanks for your comments and welcome to the blogosphere (whatever it's called) Wayne, nice to have a Mariners voice.

John, certainly an intersting game at Hindmarsh, but wasn't surprised with yet another Melbourne away win. Thought their attack might be too potent for an Adelaide defence that has been disappointing.

Sun Dec 03, 07:41:00 pm AEDT  

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