Monday, November 27, 2006

A-League team of the week, round 14

IT was a week for the home sides to dominate, expect at the Dome where the Jets knocked-off the front runners in one of the most intriguing games of a seasons. Not suprising then to find a number of its chief architects in this week's team, particularly in defence and the engine room. There were also impressive performances from Sydney and Perth, admittedly against weakened opposition, while the Mariners, with Mrdja leading the line for the first time, kicked off of a long home run with a vital win that sends them into the four. Thus, some tough choices in this week's 3-5-2;

Liam Reddy, QR, keeper; arguably the toughest choice of the lot, with the Jets replacement Ivan Necevski pulling off two vital one on one stops, the first to deny Alessandro in first half injury time, the second to keep out Allsopp. In the context of the result, these turned out to be more crucial that Reddy's million or so stops against Sydney, but it is hard to ignore Reddy's heroics, particularly two finger-tip stops in the first half when Queensland were still in it. Almost kept out Corica's bullet header.

Steve Eagleton, NJ, right back; one of many players who has flourished under van Egmond, he is playing with confidence. While is work on the ball often leaves a bit to be desired, he has been trying and do the simple things of late, and doing them reasonably well. Worked from behind Griffiths to help trouble Melbourne's left and kept Alessandro pretty quiet when he came on. Gets in ahead of Jamie Coyne who did plenty of work in the following game.

Jade North, NJ, central defender; while he made one big mistake, letting in Alessandro in first half injury time, this was another impressive performance from North in the centre of Jets defence, good in the air and sharpish on the ground. He had to be to keep up with Thompson, Allsopp and Fred, but did as good a job as anyone, and gets in ahead of the Sydney, Perth a Mariners defenders, who had fairly comfortable games.

Matt Thompson, NJ, left back; after being burnt by Leo Bertos the week before, this was a great comeback from Thompson, once against demonstrating his willingness to drive forward and support the midfield. Continues to impress in a position where he can demonstrate his discipline, awareness and energy.

Robbie Middleby, SFC, right midfield; while Bertos had a second good game on the trot for the Glory, that was against lightweight Greg Duruz. Middleby, although he played on the left, was up against a much better defender in former teammate Andy Packer and got the better of him with some blistering turns of pace, creating two and getting on the scoresheet himself. Amazing what a bit of confidence and faith from the boss can do. Special mention for Dave Carney, who adds so much to Sydney's style.

Stuart Musalik, NJ, defensive central midfield; after a measured start, started to impose himself on the game alongside Paul Kohler, who was equally as good, and they got on top of the likes of Sarkies and Brebner. Musalik, improving by the week as he starts to demand the ball and boss games, is a master of the simple stuff, receive, turn and pass, and his work of late has been eye-catching. Football fans around the country, crying out for some back-up for Vinnie Grella, should hope his development continues. Gets in ahead of Mile Jediank who was good in the second half, but gave the ball away far too often in the first.

Steve Corica, SFC, attacking central midfield, right; gets in ahead of Fred after another top class performance, pulling Dustin Wells and Neil Enblem all over the place. His knack of drifting into the box late, as we saw in the grand final, hasn't diminished, getting on the end of a couple of near misses before finally bulleting a header home.

Nick Carle, NJ, attacking central midfield, left; rarely has Carle been in such brilliant form. Here Merrick showed the utmost respect by suprisingly throwing Steve Pantelidis into a central midfield man-marking role, assigned with the task of following Carle around and limiting his touches and turns. It threw the mind back to Wadey's 1993 job on Maradona. A younger, less mature Carle may have become frustrated by the attention, but not the 2006 version. Here he just kept demanding the ball, held off Pantelidis, and eventually created the opening, patient and thoughtful stuff.

Jason Spagnuolo, AU, left midfield; on a losing side, this bloke did more than most to provide the cutting edge for Adelaide, giving Wayne O'Sullivan a torrid time with his impressive combination of pace and technique. Continues to grow and was unlucky not to be awarded something a fraction before the Mariners opened the scoring. Gets the gig ahead of Stan Lazaridis, who continued his fine season.

Joel Griffiths, NJ, striker; while he played on the right side of Newcastle's 4-2-3-1, gets the role as a striker here after causing the new-look Melbourne defence plenty of headaches, especially left wing-back Adrian Caceres, who was powerless to keep up and was replaced a quarter of the way in. One sublime dink towards the far post had Eugene Galekovic stranded and would have been one of the goals of the season. Indeed, that is all that is missing from Griffiths's game, but if he contiunues to work as hard as he is, surely his luck will change. Gets in ahead Danny Allsopp, who tried hard on a losing side, and Nick Mrdja, who got better as the game went on at Bluetongue.

Jamie Harnwell, PG, striker; remarkable, that's all you can say about this performance. Impossible to imagine him bagging at hat-trick, let alone three with his feet, it probably says as much about the leaky Knights defence as anything else. For a defender, Harnwell has always had a knack of creating chances, usually with his head, so the past fortnight has been bizarre to say the least. Special mention to Canadian striker Alen Marcina, who was lively up front the Knights.


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