Sunday, December 03, 2006

A -League, round 15 round-up

The four games

Adelaide United 1 v Melbourne Victory 3; a tame beginning in front of a bumper crowd was brought to life when Rob Bajic dangled a reflex right leg, connecting with Fred. Suddenly the fans, who had hitherto been watching Romario's every move, were involved in a game. Ditto the players and managers, as a fascinating tactical battle ensued. Kosmina introduced Beltrame by sacrificing Dodd, asking Kemp to push on down the left side to provide the width high up the pitch. With Mark Sheild soon evening up the numbers with the send-off of an unlucky Brebner, Merrick decided to make strange substitution. Instead of sending Pantelidis infield from his position on the left (where he was marking Burns), he took him off, pushed Mark Byrnes further into midfield, shifted Simon Storey out to the left (onto Burns) and introduced Adrian Caceres on the right, seemingly charged with the responsibilty of keeping Kemp busy. It was fascinating stuff, the defensive minded Storey on the left, the attacking minded Caceres on the right. But it didn't work, at least not initially. Kemp kept attacking, exposing Caceres's defensive weakness and teeing up the equaliser for Rech. Clearly Kosmina had seen the way Griffiths had toyed with Caceres the week before. Intriguing stuff. Adelaide continued their decent work early in the second half and should have gone ahead after some neat footwork (and surprising speed on one occasion) from the great Brazilian, but the more they ventured forward, the more potent Melbourne became on the counter, particularly with Costanzo making a couple of uncharacteristic errors. The return of Muscat also helped the visitors, combining with Fred and Allsopp to eventually kill off the game and continue the Victory's remarkable away run.

Queensland Roar 1 v Perth Glory 0; finally a win for the Roar, but didn't they make hard work of it. Dominating all over the pitch and looking on the same wavelength (but for the odd moment between McCloughan and Ognenovski) for the first time in a long time, it appeared they would again be undone by their own poor finishing and some remarkable glove-work from Tomich, but up popped man of the match McKay with an absolute bomb, a wonderful bit of technique. It was about time, after he was guilty of missing a sitter earlier in the half. Farina shaped up with a new look in midfield (Young Socceroo Chris Grossman on the right, Dilevski on the left and McKay in front of McLaren, in for suspended Gibson) and up front (Lynch and Mori starting, Reinaldo missing out altogether, Milicic on the bench) and it was working beautifully, the team creating chances and dominating the flow of the game. For a young debutant, Grossman looked handy, always looking to be involved and whipping in a delightful cross for Lynch to volley, remarkably saved by the lightning reflexes of Tomich. But the longer they went without scoring the more chance they had of being hit at the other end. Perth looked particularly likely when Glavas came on, but the Roar eventually got their reward, a crucial win that keeps them in the mix. Remarkably, a team that had a United Nations feel about it under Bleiberg now looks more local than most teams, only two of the starters, Lynch and Seo, from overseas.

New Zealand Knights 1 v Newcastle Jets 1; always a danger game for a team that tends to lift against the big sides (evidence their win last week against Melbourne) and relax against the weaker sides (evidence their loss to Perth the week before), the Jets might just look back on this one closer to the finals and think ‘if only’. In truth, they didn’t relax against the Knights, dishing up some of the most inventive and exciting football of the season. All that was missing were the finishes, mainly due to their own propensity to want to walk it in, partly due to some desperate defending from the Knights, particularly new centre back Dean Gordon (just how many players have this mob used?). With Musalik and Carle running the show from central midfield, at times it seemed a matter of by how many the Jets would win. Griffiths finally registered a goal, a sublime finish from a delightful Musalik ball, but was otherwise wasteful. Ditto the other three up front, Carle tending to pass in the box when a shot might have been the better option, Rodriguez denied by a couple of brilliant Paston saves and Coveny blasting one straight at his compatriot’s head. Ouch to both the shooter and stopper. At the other end, North produced another hand ball in the box and the Jets were punished for not being ruthless enough.

Central Coast Mariners 0 v Sydney FC 0; after last week’s win by Sydney over Queensland, Lawrie McKinna spoke of how well Sydney had passed the ball. He was right, Sydney have looked slick of late but have been given plenty of time on the ball. So his tactical game-plan going into this one was to shut Sydney down high up the pitch, not allow the likes of Talay, Carney and Corica any time on the ball, and it worked a treat, the visitors never allowed to build up any of the passing momentum which has been a feature of the their play the past few weeks. McKinna matched Terry Butcher’s 4-2-3-1, deploying Pondeljak and Gumprecht behind Mrdja to keep Talay and McFlynn pre-occupied, while Jedinak looked after Corica in the hole between midfield and attack. Whenever Corica went further forward and joined Zdrilic, FC looked likely, but for the most part he was well looked after. With Petrie, left, and Kwasnik, right, going head to head with Fyfe and Ceccoli respectively, essentially both teams cancelled each other out. It was physical and tight, not always pleasing on the eye, a point that keeps both managers content. While Butcher’s men have now gone six games undefeated, McKinna will be pleased with his defence, which has struggled for most of the season but kept its third clean sheet on the trot. Nice momentum for both teams.

Some of the other talking points

Defensive shield; not every day Australia’s top whistle-blower Mark Shield gets things so wrong, but a day after appearing on Fox’s Total Football, the jet-setter lost control of the Adelaide-Melbourne clash early on. While his decision to dismiss Bajic looked a little harsh, his decision a short time later to red-card Brebner looked a clear case of ‘evening up the count’, something referees are often accused of. The look on some of the Melbourne players faces told the tale.

Romario watch; more involved than he was a week before, this was a much better display, denied on one occasion by Theoklitos after a neat one two with Kemp, denied again by the keeper after exploding past the quick Fred down the left, and denied by a desperate defensive tackle on the line after turning on a cross and shooting into what appeared an unguarded goal. It sent the memory back to Wayne O’s Sullivan’s last ditch effort a week earlier. Fair to say the Brazilian hasn’t had much luck, but impossible to think he wouldn’t have finished at least one of his chances in his heyday.

Sully the saviour again; speaking of O’Sullivan, for the second week running he made a desperate defensive lunge to deny the opposition a goal, this time deep into injury time when Steve Corica raced through and appeared certain to steal all three point for Sydney. Some challenge.

Save of the week; while Mark Paston made a brilliant finger tip save to his right to deny Rodriguez today, impossible to go past Tommi Tomich’s early reaction save to keep out a Simon Lynch volley (from an excellent Grossman cross), one of many great Tomich stops. What a fist he’s making of his A-League chance.

Goal of the week; only seven goals this week, one of the lowest totals of the campaign. While Joel Griffiths’s lob over Paston was perfectly executed, Matt McKay gets the gig this week for an outrageously placed left foot volley, which he took down on his thigh and measured past Tomich. Took something of this quality to beat him.

5 Comments:

Blogger john said...

Roar v Newcastle is the Roar's 2nd last home game - the next being Rd 21 v Sydney. It is possible that this match plays a key in deciding the final four.

Of course the Romanio factor means that Kossie is no longer playing, to use his words, 'ground them out' football. This has meant they have lost two in a row. And Burnsy looked well out of place. But at least he got a start.

For me the Sydney v Central Coast result lived up to expectations.

Mon. Dec. 04, 07:59:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger Hamish said...

Thanks once again for an excellent roundup Tony. Exciting to read, with vivid description and an eye for the tactical as well as the sensational.

I gush because I am jealous.

Mon. Dec. 04, 09:00:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Hamish, you might be gushing, I'm blushing....

Thanks for your ongoing interest.

Ditto John, you're sure right about the Roar v Newcastle game becoming mightily significant. I think they call them 'six-pointers' in the trade. Indeed, with only seven points seperating 2nd from second last, the final six rounds should be compelling, at least from a results perspective.

Let's just hope the football is entertaining and positive.

You will have noticed and probably been pleased that Ben Williams missed out on a gig this week.

Mon. Dec. 04, 11:06:00 pm AEDT  
Blogger James said...

How many players have the Knights put on the park?

27! None of them guests.

Li Yan will surely make it 28 next week. And if Matt Carbon plays at all this year, which I suppose is extremely doubtful, it'll be one more.

Perhaps it's injuries (and I guess poor squad building), more so than lack of talent or heart, that has so badly derailed the Knights' campaign after really quite a promising pre-season.

Wed. Dec. 06, 11:48:00 am AEDT  
Blogger The Round Ball Analyst said...

Excellent work James, that's a massive amount of players in only 15 games....

"Perhaps it's injuries (and I guess poor squad building), more so than lack of talent or heart, that has so badly derailed the Knights' campaign after really quite a promising pre-season."

I agree it was a very promising pre-season and I thought on the basis of that that they might be able to push for a posi in the top four, but the problem I pre-empted in my preview of the season was that they'd struggle to score the necessary goals to mount a serious challenge. Wasn't long before that problem surfaced (only one goal in the first 8 rounds) as too much pressure was placed Dani Rodrigues, and ultimately the style of football didnt suit him when he was available. Too often he was left far too isolated from his wide men, and istead of playing with a staggered central trio, they played in a straight line, never a chance of getting enough support to Rodrigues.

No doubt injuries to the likes of Salley, Rodrigues and Johnson have played a role, but I really think the problems are more to do with their recruitment and what they see in some players/managers.

The most obvious for me is continuing faith in skipper Darren Beazley, a player who for the most part struggles to hit even the simplest of passes. I'll never forget seeing him for the first time at Aussie Stadium last year, every time he got the ball he took one touch, looked up and whipped in a cross. In 12 attmepts, almost every time it failed to get beyond Jacob Timpano at the near post. The one time it did, easy work for Bolton. The quality just isn't there, and others like Devine and Gemmill have been equally as poor.

The club doesnt appear to have much of a plan...

Thu. Dec. 07, 05:46:00 pm AEDT  

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