Tuesday, November 07, 2006

A-League team of the week, round 11

IN terms of quality and edge of the seat appeal, one of the better rounds of season 2, kicking off with Friday night's thriller at the Dome, in which the Melbourne front three again showed how classy and dangerous they are. As for the rest of the round, Saturday night dished up a competitive NSW derby before the Knights surprised everyone of Sunday with some accomplished displays at the back and in the middle. Straight after that, Adelaide had the better of the first half against the Glory and had their flankers to thank for that. With 14 goals in the round (a healthy 3.66 average), here is an attack-minded 3-4-3;

Mark Paston, NZK, keeper; into the side for the first time, this was by far the most accomplished display between the sticks by the Knights this season. Already they have used both Turnbull and Milosevic, and both, it has to be said, have looked shaky. But Paston, fresh off a Vietnam tour with NZ 'A', looked confident and communicative, and made some vital stops, including one thrilling save to his right in the second period to keep out McCloughan. Bajic and Bolton also did well.

Sime Kovacevic, NZK, stopper; playing alongside Bunce in the absence of Emblen, this was Kovacevic's best display yet at this level, combining with the veteran Kiwi to shut out the likes of Zhang, Reinaldo and Lynch. In truth, it could have been Bunce in this team, but the young Aussie caught the eye.

Paul Okon, NJ, central defender; back after a week's suspension, this was a master-class in distribution from the back. If you're a kid learning the art of building up from the back, do yourself a favour and get a hold of Okon's second half, simply magnificent. His ball to play in Brown for the equaliser couldn't have been more perfectly weighted. It left Zadkovich and Sydney's cover defence for dead.

Steve Pantelidis, MV, stopper; gets in ahead of Bingley after an excellent 60 odd minutes as a replacement for the red-carded Vargas. Working closely with Leijer, he was a monster in repelling the Mariners, always getting a foot in and winning the aerial battles. Has provided excellent depth off the bench so far this season, and his adaptability has been a key ingredient for Merrick. Bingley can feel unlucky after an excellent performance only tarnished by his red card.
Jonti Richter, NZK, right sided attacker; his best game for his new club, not surprisingly against his old club. Said to have had the odd run-in with Bleiberg, he was clearly up to proving a point and helped the Knights grab their goal by holding up the ball and waiting for Wells to overlap. Instrumental in having Buess replaced, he was less effective against Packer, but at least stopped him from getting forward. Appeared to have an exchange with Bleiberg after the final whistle, interesting stuff.

Dustin Wells, NZK, defensive central midfield; in on a short-term for Johnson from the NSW premier league side Wollongong, Wells took his opportunity with relish, biting in with Gemmill and Buari to help the Knights do what they haven't done for most of the season, dominate a midfield. Physical and mobile, he was driving forward, overlapping and working back to make tackles in his own box. Worked so hard he had to be replaced at the end simply out of exhaustion.

Fred, MV, attacking central midfield; is there anything this guys can't do? This was another all-round display of wonderful work on the ball and incredible workrate off it - vision, skill, pace and will to win. When Muscat was sent off, Fred simply rolled up his sleeves and took control of the team. His two slalom runs in the second half, ghosting past defenders, sending them to the turf, then one way, then the other, will live in the memory.

Travis Dodd, AU, left midfield; while he played on the right, gets the gig on the left after an eye-catching first half in which he destroyed Tarka after Sekulovski had limped off. No surprise then that Adelaide's second came from some great work down the right. Spagnuolo also did well down the left, but only lasted his usual half and a bit.

Joel Griffths, NJ, right sided attacker; while he was relatively quiet in the first period, became more and more influential as the Jets took control, giving Ceccoli a heap of problems. Unlucky to hit the post in the second half, he combined beautifully with Carle and was loving the service from the abovementioned Okon.

Danny Allsopp, MV, central striker; eight goals and flying, his form was summed up with a stunningly taken later equaliser, gambling with a run at the back post and finishing with aplomb, but his most eye-catching moment came in the first half, when he put the ball on the floor and burst beyond the entire CCM defence. While he was denied by a good O'Grady recover, it was an electric show of pace and typified the confidence flowing through his game.

Archie Thompson, MV, left sided attacker; hard to leave the hard-working Zdrilic out, but for sheer quality, again it is impossible to go past Thompson, who played as a striker on Friday but pulls out on the left in this side to provide balance. Like Allsopp and Fred, the confidence gives him the drive to keep trying things, not be afraid, and for Victory fans and neutrals alike it is a sight to behold. The speed and composure he showed in taking his goal was top-class.


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